Today, President Biden signed a presidential memorandum to rescind the Global Gag Rule. By doing so, the Biden-Harris administration has taken a first step in demonstrating to our nation and the global community that it stands by and prioritizes health equity, inclusion and justice for all.
A destructive and overreaching U.S. health policy enforced and relentlessly expanded by the Trump administration, the Global Gag Rule was imposed on January 23, 2017. President Trump unleashed four years of stigma and discrimination against providers of comprehensive health services, weakened health systems, severed referral networks and closed off care for women, young people, LGBT+ individuals and other groups most affected by health inequities.
The Global Gag Rule has put health and lives around the world at risk by forcing non-U.S. NGOs to choose between receiving U.S. global health assistance and providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, including 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.
This rescission of the Global Gag Rule is a long-awaited, crucial action given the urgency to prevent the known and wide-ranging effects of the policy, some of which can never be undone. Far too many communities suffered the closure of health clinics, and individuals were cut off from essential care and treatment or experienced unintended pregnancies or unsafe abortion as a result of the policy.
PAI documented the extensive harm of the expanded Global Gag Rule in countries across Africa and Asia, which includes diminishing access to contraception, cervical cancer screenings, abortion, sexually transmitted infection treatments and other critical services. The effects of censorship and U.S. policy overruling the laws of sovereign nations and aspirations of sovereign people have destabilized health progress and undermined global health initiatives — including those that have benefited from decades of U.S. investments, such as efforts to ensure countries can respond to global health emergencies by building and investing in robust, country-led and country-driven health systems.
“President Biden’s rescission of the Global Gag Rule is a powerful and hopeful step toward progress and the right for all people to have the autonomy to make health decisions for themselves and their families,” says Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins, PAI president and CEO.
“PAI stands ready to partner with the Biden-Harris administration, civil society, local governments and global leaders on the work ahead to rebuild from the damage done to sexual and reproductive health and rights. We also will work alongside champions of health and human rights in the U.S. Congress to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule. We must ensure that communities across our nation and around the world can exercise their right to sexual and reproductive health, which is fundamental to progress.”
The legacy of the Global Gag Rule is the curtailing of human rights, fracturing of health systems and shackling of national responses to communities in the wake of emergencies like COVID-19. The impact has been felt in acute ways, with life-altering and life-threatening consequences for women, youth and vulnerable communities.
President Biden’s presidential memorandum also allows critical funds for reproductive and maternal health services and gender-based violence programs to begin flowing to UNFPA again, disavows the anti-choice and anti-LGBT+ Geneva Consensus Declaration led by the Trump administration and begins the process to rescind the Domestic Gag Rule. These actions are critical steps in addressing the damage done to sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world and at home over the past over years, yet it is just the beginning of the work to be done.
In embarking upon this new chapter, PAI will continue its efforts to prevent a recurrence of disparities, exclusion, illness and death generated by U.S. foreign policy through evidence, advocacy and partnership. With the goal of lasting resilience despite U.S. political swings, PAI-supported NGOs have built momentum and local support for policies and funding to advance country-owned, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health programs. PAI also calls on Congress to seize this opportunity to pass the Global HER Act, reintroduced today by Senators Jeanne Shaheen, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and Representatives Barbara Lee, Jan Schakowsky and Ami Bera, to prevent future reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule and protect communities from future attacks on their right to sexual and reproductive health services.
PAI champions policies that put women in charge of their reproductive health. We work with policymakers in Washington and our network of partners in developing countries to remove roadblocks between women and the services and supplies they need. For 50 years, we’ve helped women succeed by upholding their basic rights. To learn more, visit pai.org