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Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Really Know the Global Gag Rule?

On January 23, 2017, in one of his first actions as president, Donald Trump reinstated and expanded the Global Gag Rule⁠—a policy that risks women’s health and lives by forcing foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to choose between receiving U.S. global health assistance and providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care. In order to comply with the Global Gag Rule, providers must agree not to provide information, referrals or services for legal abortion or to advocate for the legalization of abortion in their country with their own, non-U.S. funds.

For decades, PAI has documented the impact of the Global Gag Rule in our research series Access Denied and works with in-country partners as well as champions on Capitol Hill to mitigate its harmful effects. Here, we address common questions and persistent misconceptions about the Global Gag Rule.

The History

Where did the Global Gag Rule come from?

The Basics

Does the Global Gag Rule prevent tax dollars from being spent on abortion?

But isn’t that money fungible and don’t U.S. taxpayer dollars indirectly support abortion?

Do Americans support the Global Gag Rule?

The Details

Does the Global Gag Rule prevent tax dollars from being spent on abortion?

How is the Global Gag Rule different under the Trump-Pence administration?

How does the Global Gag Rule take effect?

Are there any exceptions for abortion-related services under the Global Gag Rule?

What if an NGO does not engage in any of the activities prohibited under the Global Gag Rule?

What are the consequences of the Global Gag Rule?

Is the U.S. government tracking the Global Gag Rule’s impact?

The Numbers

The Global Gag Rule is an inhumane policy that undermines women’s health and threatens their lives. The human costs of Trump’s Global Gag Rule are far beyond that of any previous administration. The policy will decimate health systems by undermining the most effective and experienced health care providers and putting their services out of reach. Any cuts to international family planning assistance will further punish women in already-challenging circumstances. Other donors can make important contributions to defend women’s sexual and reproductive rights, but none will fill the funding gap in the short term. To prevent the Global Gag Rule from serving as a political football with each administration, the U.S. Congress must present the Global HER Act to a president who is a champion for women and girls and will sign the bill into law.

Does the Global Gag Rule cut U.S. funding levels?

Aren’t other countries and private donors working to "fill the gap"?

The Solutions

On February 7, 2019, family planning champions in the U.S. House and Senate reintroduced the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act. This piece of legislation would permanently repeal the expanded Global Gag Rule and prevent future administrations from inserting their political ideologies between patients and healthcare providers in other countries. While this is a significant first step to undo the policy’s harm, the bill will not be codified into law until both a majority of the U.S. Congress and a future president support the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls around the world.

Until legislation like the Global HER Act is incorporated into U.S. law, the Global Gag Rule will be a looming threat to in-country health systems around the world. Globally, family planning advocates are mobilizing to assist national governments in finding ways to mitigate the impact of the policy in each of their countries. This can be accomplished by mobilizing domestic resources and pushing for progressive sexual and reproductive health policies. As long as countries remain heavily reliant on donor funding to meet their health needs, they will be subject to the shifting policies of those donors. The return of the Global Gag Rule provides a strong example of how those shifting policies adversely impact country health priorities.

Conclusion

The Global Gag Rule is an inhumane policy that undermines women’s health and threatens their lives. The human costs of Trump’s Global Gag Rule are far beyond that of any previous administration. The policy will decimate health systems by undermining the most effective and experienced health care providers and putting their services out of reach. Any cuts to international family planning assistance will further punish women in already-challenging circumstances. Other donors can make important contributions to defend women’s sexual and reproductive rights, but none will fill the funding gap in the short term. To prevent the Global Gag Rule from serving as a political football with each administration, the U.S. Congress must present the Global HER Act to a president who is a champion for women and girls and will sign the bill into law.