Senators Shaheen, Murray and Reps. Speier, Lee, DeGette, Engel and Lowey Lead Call to Overturn Ideological Trump Admin Policies That Undermine Global Health and COVID-19 Response

May 06, 2020

Senators: “Ideology is no excuse for hampering the international response to COVID-19, jeopardizing hard-won progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, or failing to act as access to contraceptive care decreases and gender-based violence increases.”

House Members: “Now more than ever, we must prioritize people’s health over politics and remove these ideological policies that undermine health care access and global coordination.”

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Patty Murray (D-WA), joined by 19 of their Democratic Senate colleagues, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the Department of State and the Trump administration to take immediate action to exempt emergency global health funding appropriated by Congress for the COVID-19 response from the dangerous and ill-conceived global gag rule and to provide a humanitarian exemption to allow the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to compete for emergency supplemental funding.

A companion letter in the U.S. House of Representatives was led by Representatives Jackie Speier (CA-14), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Diana DeGette (CO-1), Nita Lowey (NY-17) and Eliot Engel (NY-16).

“We write with extreme concern about the effect of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on access to and the availability of sexual and reproductive health globally. The United States should be a leader in addressing this pandemic, rather than lagging behind and allowing ideological objections to drive decision-making and contribute to poor access to health care,” wrote the Senators. “Ideological actions taken by the Trump-Pence Administration, like reinstating and expanding the Global Gag Rule, otherwise known as the Mexico City Policy or the Protecting Life In Global Health Assistance Policy, and defunding the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), undermine global access to sexual and reproductive health care, which needlessly endangers health care workers and their patients worldwide. We urge you to reconsider policies that prevent the United States from partnering fully with entities best positioned to deliver lifesaving care and supplies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Ideology is no excuse for hampering the international response to COVID-19, jeopardizing hard-won progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, or failing to act as access to contraceptive care decreases and gender-based violence increases.”

In their letter, the Senators call upon the Trump administration to, at a minimum:

  • Exempt emergency global health funding from Global Gag Rule restrictions;
  • Provide a humanitarian exemption to the Kemp-Kasten determination;
  • And halt work on a Fiscal Year 2020 Kemp-Kasten determination and allow appropriate funding go to UNFPA.

The Senators’ letter can be read in full here.

The House letter pressed the Trump administration to take similar steps, and discussed the mounting evidence that the administration’s ideological stance is hurting global health efforts. The House members’ letter can be read in full here.

A member of both the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, Senator Shaheen has been a fierce advocate for women and girls around the globe. Shaheen continues to lead efforts to repeal the Global Gag Rule, which bans critical federal aid for non-governmental groups that provide the full scope of family planning and maternal health services abroad. She’s also led legislation in the Senate to end violence against women, authored legislation to address barriers that girls around the world face in accessing education and secured women leadership roles in conflict resolution and peace negotiations