A Global Gag Rule Expansion Will Endanger More Women’s Lives, According To Critics

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On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he's broadening the Trump administration rules that prevent the United States from giving money to foreign NGOs that provide abortions. Now, the ban will extend to groups that fund other organizations that in turn provide abortions. "American taxpayer dollars will not be used to underwrite abortions," Pompeo told reporters. Critics say that the State Department's expansion of the global gag rule will put women's lives at risk around the world.

The original policy, known as the Mexico City Policy, has been in place during all Republican administrations since President Ronald Reagan started it in 1984. It kept U.S. family planning foreign assistance funds from organizations that provided abortions or referrals.

President Trump reinstated the policy in January 2017, but expanded the rules so that other health foreign aid — including aid to fight HIV and provide maternal and child care — were cut off from funding too. This latest announcement takes the policy one step further.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) said in a statement to Bustle that "the administration’s obsession with attacking women’s reproductive health is egregious and dangerous." She added that the global gag rule puts organizations in an "impossible position" because they must either forgo funding that's used to save lives or lie to patients about what reproductive health care options are available.

"While Secretary Pompeo’s announcement was not accompanied by any sort of plan for implementation, his announcement signifies a further expansion of a policy that puts women’s lives at risk around the world and has proven not to achieve its stated aim of reducing abortions," Shaheen said.

Studies have shown that the global gag rule is ineffective and actually increases the number of abortions worldwide, as there are fewer family planning resources that help prevent unplanned pregnancies through education and contraception.

Heather Boonstra, director of public policy at the Guttmacher Institute, said in a statement provided to Bustle that the decision is ideologically driven.

"Each iteration of the global gag rule has been blatantly coercive, both in intent and practice, and is moving forward in lock step with the Trump administration’s non-stop assault on reproductive health services," Boonstra's statement said. "This ideologically driven policy undermines the very goals of U.S. foreign aid programs by harming the health of people in developing countries, violating medical ethics, and trampling on democratic values."

In addition to withholding money from NGOs, Pompeo announced that funding would be held from the Organization for American States (OAS) because it has advocated for abortion. The OAS is an international organization that works for cooperation in the Americas; it's kind of like the United Nations, but it focuses only on North and South America.

"The institutions of OAS should be focused on addressing crises in Cuba, Nicaragua and in Venezuela, not advancing the pro-abortion cause," Pompeo said.

Shaheen noted that the policy threatens public health more generally, particularly with concern to HIV and Zika. "Often times, the groups that the administration is targeting are the only health providers for the most vulnerable populations – restricting their ability to deliver services to women and children around the globe," Shaheen said.

She went on to say that she has requested more information from the administration about the policy change.

"Luckily, there is bipartisan support in the Senate to repeal the unwarranted and cruel global gag policy," she said, "and I urge congressional leadership in both chambers to allow a vote immediately."