Growing up on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in rural Arizona, I experienced firsthand what it was like to have extremely limited access to health care from a very young age. And now, as a legislator, I believe that we all benefit when everyone receives the health care that they need and deserve. And yet, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 218 million women across the developing world who want to prevent pregnancy still have an unmet need for modern contraception. 31,000 women and girls die every year from complications from unsafe abortion. Millions more suffer severe and often permanent injury.
Imposed by every Republican president and repealed by every Democratic president since 1984, the Global Gag Rule has been a political football for a long time. During his time in office, Donald Trump reinstated the already terrible policy and expanded it to impact all U.S. global health funding. The Global Gag Rule has put millions at risk by forcing organizations to choose between desperately needed funding and providing their patients with comprehensive health care services. It bans health care providers that receive U.S. aid from providing abortion, counseling patients on abortion, referring patients to other providers for abortion, or from advocating for more progressive abortion laws in their own countries—even if they do any of these with their own, non-U.S. money. Either choice hurts the people seeking care. This odious policy limits access to a full range of information and services legal within these countries.
President Trump’s choke-hold on global health aid forced clinics to close and cut off access to birth control and safe abortion, with life-threatening consequences. His decision to defund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) impacted access to contraceptives and critical health care services.
Thankfully, on January 28, 2021, President Biden showed his commitment to reproductive rights around the world by following through on his commitment to repealing the Global Gag Rule and resuming funding to UNFPA. This is just the first step in reversing the four-year war on reproductive health and rights under Trump and the GOP.
That’s why we must pass the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act. We must ensure that no future president can unilaterally reinstate the Global Gag Rule, causing chaos to health care clinics around the world and harm to those who desperately depend on them.
A bipartisan, bicameral bill, The Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act, would do just that: create a permanent, legislative repeal of the Global Gag Rule. The Global HER Act has been widely supported in the House, passing several times in the past few years. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I’ve had the opportunity to vote for the Global HER Act a number of times, and I will never stop advocating on behalf of women everywhere until health, empowerment, and reproductive rights are a reality for people around the world.