Press Release: 2020-09-15

Trump Administration Seeks to Expand Global Gag Rule It Knows to Be Harmful During A Global Pandemic

Gag Rule Already Causes Devastating Disruptions in Health Care Around the World

WASHINGTON — Despite the fact that multiple studies found that the global gag rule disrupts access to critical health care around the world, and as COVID-19 continues to claim lives across the globe, today, the Trump administration published a proposed rule for public comment seeking to expand this devastating policy. The “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” proposed rule would broaden the global gag rule to apply to global health contracts, newly impacting over 250 contracts and as much as 40% of global health assistance. Because of the global gag rule, the communities that already faced the greatest barriers to care — including women and girls, young people, and LGBTQ+ people — have experienced the most devastating constraints on services. They are also disproportionately affected by the pandemic. They would only be further harmed by this proposed, unprecedented expansion. 

Statement from Monica Kerrigan, executive director, Planned Parenthood Global: 

“The global gag rule was among the first of many attacks the administration launched against health and human rights. Study after study — including from the State Department — has demonstrated that this neocolonialist policy has inflicted a crushing blow to health care access for people around the world, especially those who already face systemic barriers to care, including women and girls, young people, and LGBTQ+ people. And as COVID-19 continues to claim lives and devastate communities, the administration is knowingly moving to expand this policy. There is no excuse for this brazen disregard for people’s health and rights.”

Since 2017, the global gag rule has prohibited foreign non-governmental organizations from receiving any U.S. global health assistance if they provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocate for the legalization of abortion in their country, even if these activities are supported solely with non-U.S. funds. The Trump administration has already expanded this harmful policy twice, first to apply to all global health assistance and again by extending the gag to any funds from any source that flow through a gagged organization.

Last month, the U.S. Department of State itself released a report on its own global gag rule, confirming that the rule dangerously disrupts access to health care. Despite the State Department’s claims to the contrary, the report outlined a profound impact of the policy on U.S. global health assistance, clearly describing disruptions in care across a range of global health programs, including HIV/AIDS, family planning and reproductive health, tuberculosis, and nutrition. Partners of Planned Parenthood Global — the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the African Population and Health Research Center — also recently released research detailing how the Trump administration’s global gag rule has disrupted health care access in Kenya and harmed individuals and communities. Nearly 170 diverse global health groups explicitly oppose the administration’s global gag rule and there is widespread support in Congress to repeal it entirely.