Population Connection staff headed to the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Kigali, Rwanda. As we talked with other attendees from around the world, we gathered even more evidence that Trump’s Global Gag Rule has devastated access to reproductive healthcare in aid-recipient countries, and that the #Fight4HER becomes more important every day.
Sitting in on the conference session titled “The Harm of the U.S. Global Gag Rule: Assessing Impacts on Sexual Reproductive Health Services and Rights,” hosted by Population Action International (PAI), we heard from the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia (FGAE) and Marie Stopes International (MSI) Uganda about the impacts they have felt on the ground. Representatives from PAI and the Guttmacher Institute were also on the panel, providing an American research and policy perspective.
Dr. Carole Sekimpi, MSI Uganda Country Director, noted that MSI lost 17% of its income due to the Gag Rule, and said this has led to decreased access to contraception, especially for teens. Dr. Sekimpi explained that teens are not failing to choose to use contraception; this policy is making the decision for them.
MSI and FGAE have refused to sign the Global Gag Rule, but both organizations work with other foreign NGOs that have signed it. Panelists described how partnerships with those organizations have weakened because of how cautious signers must be in adhering to the requirements of the Global Gag Rule out of fear of inadvertently violating the policy. The challenges to working relationships across organizations have reduced contact with hard to reach communities where such partnerships facilitated progress.
Jonathan Rucks of PAI explained that Gag Rule adherents widely believe they aren’t permitted to advocate to liberalize their countries’ abortion laws, which is untrue, as long as they work to legalize it only in cases of incest, rape, and to save a woman’s life.
Our conversations with countless activists, organizers, and healthcare providers further illustrated the incredible harm caused by the Global Gag Rule. We heard from individuals who had lost their jobs due to funding cuts, organizations that had to scale back on crucial projects serving marginalized populations in their countries, and providers who were hesitant to talk about the impact of the Gag Rule for fear of losing their U.S. funding.
Attending ICFP reaffirmed our belief as an organization that every person, regardless of where they live, deserves access to the comprehensive reproductive healthcare they need to take hold of their reproductive futures. As we reflect on our experience and enter a new year, we urge all of our #Fight4HER supporters to take a stand against Trump’s deadly Global Gag Rule.