Surrounded by men, Trump reinstates Reagan-era abortion restriction

It will make it harder for women around the world to receive safe health care related to abortion, pregnancy, and HIV.

President Donald Trump signs an executive order to reinstate the Mexico City policy in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President Donald Trump signs an executive order to reinstate the Mexico City policy in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

In a room of seven other men, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday that reinstates a decades-old federal ban on U.S. funding for international groups that provide information about abortion services.

The reinstatement of the so-called Mexico City policy, often referred to as the “global gag rule,” will make it harder for women around the world to access comprehensive health care.

Under an existing federal law called the Helms Amendment, international groups are already prohibited from using U.S. dollars to pay for abortions. But the global gag rule goes one step further to also prohibit these groups from providing abortion services with separate funds.

Under the rule, organizations may only receive family planning funds from the United States if they do not “promote” abortion — a broad prohibition that means these groups cannot counsel pregnant women on their full range of reproductive options for fear of losing U.S. funding.

Each year around the world, about 42 million women choose abortion, and an estimated 68,000 women die because they don’t have access to the services they need to safely end their pregnancies.

The global gag rule has far-reaching effects. In addition to preventing groups from discussing abortion, it has historically also imposed barriers to international organizations’ contraception and HIV services. Research conducted during George W. Bush’s administration found that, because the rule ultimately reduces access to family planning services, it has been tied to an increase in abortions in sub-Saharan African countries. In general, disqualifying certain NGOs from receiving U.S. funding disrupts the international health community’s ability to effectively provide aid.

The policy, which was first established by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, has gone back and forth under subsequent administrations. Repealing it was one of the first things that Barack Obama did when he took control of the Oval Office. Trump was widely expected to reinstate it as soon as possible.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the only woman currently serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Foreign Policy that she plans to prepare a legislative response to Trump’s move to reinstate the gag rule.

“President Trump’s reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule ignores decades of research, instead favoring ideological politics over women and families,” Shaheen said in a statement released Monday, pledging to “introduce bipartisan legislation to repeal the Global Gag Rule for good.​​​”

Trump’s executive order comes just one day after the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide.