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Earned Media Guide

Nail your op-ed or letter to the editor (LTE) about the Global Gag Rule, the Helms Amendment, and international family planning funding with a few helpful tips.

Messaging Guidance

The Global Gag Rule and Helms Amendment hamstring efforts to seriously address the crisis of unsafe abortion throughout the developing world.

  • The Global Gag Rule results in deadly consequences by cutting funding for medical supplies, health care, and contraception. Trump’s version—repealed by President Biden in January 2021—affected more than family planning and reproductive health care funding, impacting $8.8 billion in U.S. global health aid. When the Global Gag Rule is in effect, fewer people have access to care that prevents HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and other infectious diseases.
  • The Global Gag Rule builds on a history of deadly anti-choice policy that hurts people around the world. The Helms Amendment prevents any U.S. foreign assistance dollars from directly paying for abortion; the Global Gag Rule goes further, and prevents clinics that receive U.S. aid from counseling about, providing referrals for, or performing abortions at any time, even if they use non-U.S. dollars for these services.
  • As many as An estimated 23,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions—nearly all in developing countries. Indeed, it’s impossible to seriously address women’s health without considering the impact of unsafe abortion.

The Global Gag Rule and the Helms Amendment increase unsafe abortion.

  • The Global Gag Rule causes clinics to close, contraceptive supplies to dry up, mobile health delivery to end, and costs to patients to rise.
  • The Global Gag Rule, under George W. Bush, caused abortion rates in the most-affected African countries to increase by 40%, according to a study published in The Lancet by Stanford University researchers. Most of those abortions were unsafe. We can expect the results of Trump’s Global Gag Rule—once the data is available—to be at least as detrimental.
  • The Helms Amendment has a chilling effect—as its supporters intend—on abortion care and women’s rights in developing countries. It creates confusion and divisive rhetoric around reproductive rights, and stunts countries’ social progress.

Investment in international reproductive health and family planning saves lives.

  • We know that when people can make their own health care decisions, their families and their communities thrive. The power to decide whether or when to get pregnant is critical to everyone’s health, autonomy, dignity, educational opportunity, and economic security. Ensuring that every person has this power will strengthen families, communities, and countries across the globe.
  • In 2022, Congress appropriated $607.5 million in U.S. assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs overseas, including $32.5 million for UNFPA. According to the Guttmacher Institute, this averted 9.1 million unintended pregnancies, 3.6 million unintended births, 2.9 million unsafe abortions, and 15,000 maternal deaths.
  • Women with access to contraception have higher incomes, own more farmland and other assets, and have healthier families. This leads to greater economic freedom and stability for women and their families in developing countries, which has been found to contribute to economic growth and greater prosperity.
  • The United States must increase its investment in international family planning to $1.74 billion, including $116 million for UNFPA—this is our “fair share” contribution for eliminating unmet need for family planning in the developing world.

Now that you've got the messaging down, let's talk about logistics

Each newspaper has its own submission guidelines, so make sure you look up the ones for the paper you’re contacting. Go to the opinion page of the paper in question and take note of its requirements, including maximum word count. Letters to the editor are usually between 150 and 225 words, while op-eds are typically longer, around 500-750 words. But again, look at the info for the specific paper you’re trying for!

Opinion articles (op-eds) can be on any topic, but they’re more attractive if they address a current event or a “hook,” such as a newly introduced bill or budget, an upcoming election, or a recent court decision. Letters to the editor (LTEs) are responses to previously published articles, and they are typically only accepted for up to a week after the original article’s publication—time is of the essence if you’re submitting an LTE, so get on it as soon as you see an article that needs a response!

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Improve your chances of being published by including citations

Papers love it when authors include citations for data, statistics, and non-opinion statements. Hyperlinking citations in the body of your letter or article makes it easy for editors to fact check your piece and more likely that they’ll want to publish it. If you’re having trouble finding a particular citation, contact Marian Starkey, VP for Communications, for help.

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