In the first few weeks of Donald Trump taking office, the president signed a slew of executive orders including one order that reinstated the “Global Gag Rule.” This federal ban, also known as the Mexico City Policy, removes U.S. funding from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide family planning services including abortion. While U.S. funding cannot be used towards overseas abortions due to the Helms amendment, the Mexico City Policy removes funding from any international group that advocates for abortion or provides abortion without using U.S. money. The bill, first introduced under the Reagan administration, has been reinstated and revoked by consequent presidents along party lines. Yet, the recent revival of the bill could have disastrous effects on family planning efforts that are vital to community improvement.
Family planning and contraceptive aid are becoming one of the most important types of aid in developing countries. 222 million women do not have adequate access to contraceptives, many of whom live in developing countries; 74 million unintended pregnancies each year result in over 28 million births and 36 million abortions. Access to contraceptives, especially in developing countries, could lower pregnancy related deaths, infant mortality rates, and HIV transmission rates. Of the 291,000 women in developing countries who died from pregnancy related causes, 104,00 of them had unintended pregnancies. With access to contraceptives, a third of those deaths could have been avoided. The use of contraceptives to increase the age gap between children is inherent to their survival as well. Children in developing countries under the age of five are 12 percent more likely to survive if born two years apart and 25 percent more likely to survive if born three years apart. Contraceptives also helped lower HIV rates in countries around the world. Providing HIV positive women access to birth control methods lowers the rates of mother-to-child transmission. Between 56 and 92 percent of pregnancies among HIV positive women are unintended.
Yet, as important contraceptives may be to the health of a country’s population, the Global Gag Rule will reverse so much of the progress that has been made. The U.S. is the world’s largest donor to family planning and reproductive health and by removing funding to key organizations this will no doubt have some adverse effects (Kaiser). This ban will cause International Planned Parenthood Federation, the largest contraceptive provider in the world, to lose $100 million in funding.
Many reports have arisen in recent years citing the disastrous effect the reinstatement of the ban has had on developing countries during George W. Bush’s administration. A study done in 2011 found that the policy was directly related to increased abortion rates in sub-Saharan African countries. This was caused by reduced availability to contraceptives due to declined funding to NGOs that were key providers in these areas. By cutting funding to these NGOs, unintended pregnancies were more likely to occur and women had to rely on abortions to prevent them. In Lesotho during the Clinton administration the country received condoms solely from the Lesotho Planned Parenthood. Yet after the Global Gag Rule was implemented the condom shipments were suspended, even though one in four women were HIV positive.
The Global Gag Rule will do nothing but harm developing countries by declining funding to organizations that are vital to a country’s health and quality of life. Contraception is incredibly important lowering pregnancy related deaths, child mortality, HIV rates, and abortion rates. If Trump wanted to lower abortions overseas, he would keep giving money to the NGOs that give women another way out.