The Global Gag Rule: America’s Hypocrisy

By Nicole Rapfogel, Field and Outreach Intern

This August, activists around the U.S. are convening at Summer of HER Summits in 8 states across the country to learn how to get more involved in their communities and fight the Trump administration’s repeated attacks on reproductive rights. As the Global Gag Rule (GGR) forces foreign organizations to shut down clinics in their countries that serve the poorest people and scale back in-clinic and outreach programming, limiting access to essential reproductive healthcare, the time to act is now.

The GGR is an unfair, unjust, and deadly policy. The Trump administration, in its expanded version of the rule, has destroyed access to family planning services and basic healthcare for millions of individuals around the world. By imposing their interpretation of Christian values on low-income countries, the GGR is rooted in neo-colonialism.

The GGR encourages organizations to violate domestic policies and medical ethics in their own countries. Service providers cannot provide accurate information about legal abortion care if they accept U.S. foreign aid for global health. Many organizations in countries that have achieved hard-earned progress in the liberalization of abortion laws now face an impossible dilemma: restrict life-saving abortion access or lose essential funding.

In his inaugural address, Trump outlined his “America first” credo, the core elements of which directly conflict with his GGR. He emphasized the right of all nations to put their own interests first. He claimed, “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example.”

The GGR is an imposition of American right-wing conservative ideals. Directly, it mandates anti-choice policy. More broadly, the GGR serves to oppress and subjugate women. It stands contrary to the best interests of patients in the nations receiving U.S. foreign aid. A Stanford University study that analyzed the impact of the GGR in its previous iteration from 2001-2008 found that, under this policy, the rate of abortion more than doubled in sub-Saharan African countries, with a sharp increase in unsafe abortions. The consequences are expected to be more extreme under the expanded Trump policy, which applies to all global health aid (in the past it only applied to family planning aid).

The U.S. is not acting like a ‘shining example’ for the rest of the world. In the last month, we have seen setbacks in the human rights of migrant children, science-based medicine, and immigration policy.

With talks of a domestic gag rule and Justice Kennedy’s retirement, democracy and currently-held rights are threatened. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, who has been vetted by anti-choice networks, would set us back even further if confirmed to the Court.

The Trump administration is manipulating funding — an abuse of the power the U.S. wields over the developing world as an economic superpower — to impose morals on the “other.” This channels the same ideas of colonial missionaries: using funding, gifts, and often force to moralize the “savages” that inhabit low and middle-income countries.

The Trump administration claims to be “pro-life.” Yet, clearly, the lives of women do not count.

The U.S. has made a lot of social progress since the days of imperialism, slavery, forced sterilization, and internment camps. Yet, we remain a neocolonialist superpower and the GGR is just the latest form of proof.

The Global Gag Rule is hypocritical and wrong on so many fronts. It’s time to take action: This August, join us at a Summer of HER Summit at a location near you to stand up for reproductive rights and fight this unjust policy.

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