Shaheen Leads Senate Call to Trump Admin to Rescind Unprecedented Expansion of Global Gag RuleNovember 13, 2020
**Shaheen leads the bipartisan effort in the Senate to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule**
**Study shows the Global Gag Rule impacts a wide range of programs and has vast consequences for critical health services**
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) – a champion for women’s global health and the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – led a group of 34 Senators today, calling on the Trump administration to rescind its unprecedented expansion of the Global Gag Rule (GGR). The GGR, also known as the Mexico City Policy, is an executive order that bans federal funds for foreign non-governmental organizations that use non-U.S. funds to provide abortion services or information about abortion as part of comprehensive family planning services. This forces clinics to choose between providing limited reproductive health services while accepting U.S. foreign aid or providing inclusive family planning and reproductive health care with a limited budget.
The administration’s latest attempt to further expand this dangerous policy would cover all contracts that organizations have with the United States for global health work. To date, the policy has only applied to two types of funding mechanisms: grants and cooperative agreements. It is estimated that this expansion would impact an additional 250 contracts and an estimated 40 percent of global health assistance. The public comment period for the administration’s proposed rule to expand the GGR ends November 14.
The Senators wrote that the GGR, “…has politicized the sexual and reproductive rights of individuals across the world since 1984. As previously applied to the International Family Planning account, this policy has been used by Republican presidents to restrict how vital health programs are allowed to operate and the information and services that can be provided to program beneficiaries. While this has been a devastating policy under previous administrations, the Trump administration’s 2017 decision to dramatically expand the Global Gag Rule to all U.S. global health assistance has magnified its destructive consequences across U.S. foreign assistance.”
The lawmakers cite a series of issues and consequences that have arisen from the administration’s dangerous implementation and expansion of the policy, including disruption in the delivery of health care services, significant compliance burdens for participating partners and exacerbated conditions in vulnerable health systems where restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have already compromised access to sexual and reproductive health care.
The Senators closed their letter with a series of questions and an urgent message for the administration to rescind the ill-conceived policy. They wrote, “The Global Gag Rule and this proposed expansion is a direct attack on sexual and reproductive health and rights for women, girls, LGBTQI+ individuals and other vulnerable groups. We are deeply concerned that this administration has acknowledged the harm of this policy, yet continues to pursue it. In order to achieve our global health goals, we seek to ensure that all people are able to access comprehensive and accurate health care and information. Yet this proposed rule makes that impossible and will only exacerbate health inequalities across the globe.”
A PDF of the letter, which was addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar, is available here. Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Chairwoman of the House Committee on Appropriations, led a similar letter in the House of Representatives today.
Earlier this year, the U.S. State Department – despite its efforts to down play the impact – admitted that the Trump administration’s enactment and vast expansion of the GGR has disrupted care outside of family planning services, as Shaheen and many warned would happen.
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, including advocating on behalf of family planning and women’s global health, spearheading efforts to end gender-based violence, authoring legislation to address barriers that girls around the world face in accessing education and securing women leadership roles in conflict resolution and peace negotiations.
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