During the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations, the Global Gag Rule prohibited foreign NGOs receiving U.S. assistance related to family planning and reproductive health from using non-U.S. funding to provide abortion services, information, counseling or referrals and from engaging in advocacy for access to safe abortion services. This policy causes real and serious harm to women around the world and runs contrary to international development agreements signed by the U.S. The policy leads to shortages in resources, the closure of health facilities offering services for women, a chill-effect on all related care (including the provision of family planning, contraceptive counselling, etc.) and the denial of lawful safe abortion services.
President Trump’s version of the Global Gag Rule is more extreme than past administrations and will extend to all global health assistance provided across U.S. departments including programmes focused on addressing HIV, Tuberculosis, Malaria, nutrition, maternal and child health, among others.
Addressing this substantial shortfall cannot be achieved without significant new funding. The U.S. is the largest bilateral donor to sexual and reproductive health and with the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule, sexual and reproductive health service providers and advocates will face a funding shortage that will force many to close their doors within months. This will deepen inequalities and the existing unmet need for services throughout the world. Women and girls cannot wait. Canada cannot be complicit in the rolling-back of the hard-fought gains made over 20 years ago on women’s rights, specifically their sexual and reproductive rights.