Trump’s Abortion Gag Order Is Already Hurting Health Care in Developing Nations

Imagine this: You’re a health care provider in a nation that receives foreign aid from the United States, and your patient has experienced an unplanned pregnancy. The patient knows they want an abortion, but you can’t talk about abortion, provide counseling or offer a referral — otherwise you’ll jeopardize your clinic’s funding.

That’s the reality under the Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule. Republican presidents have been slapping this policy on recipients of foreign aid since 1984, with Democrats reversing the order almost as soon as they get into office.

This back-and-forth dance imperils foreign aid for organizations providing assistance to people in developing nations all over the world — and it’s about nothing more than imposing ideology.

Let’s be clear: This isn’t an executive order mandating that foreign aid from the United States can’t be used for abortions, although that would be bad enough. It also wouldn’t be necessary, because the Helms Amendment already bars the use of foreign aid for this purpose.

Instead, the Global Gag Rule mandates that entities receiving aid from the United States cannot perform abortions, period — even if the funds to provide them come from other sources. Health care providers also can’t discuss abortion with patients in the course of pregnancy counseling, nor can they refer patients to facilities that provide abortions. Technically, there are supposed to be exceptions for rape and incest, but those tend to be more theoretical than practical.

In essence, the United States is dictating what kind of health care and counseling that aid workers provide.

Oddly enough, research suggests that these kinds of restrictions on foreign aid can actually lead to an increase in the abortion rate. Access to comprehensive, inclusive family planning and health care makes it easier for people to make informed choices about sexuality and their bodies.

Many organizations feel pressured into accepting this terrible deal because they rely on U.S. dollars to function and reach as many patients as possible. Their work often includes STI screening and treatment, perinatal care, sex and health education, new baby wellness and a variety of other services that have nothing to do with abortion — and are, in fact, things that the pro-life movement claims to care about, like providing babies with healthy starts in life and supporting new parents who are struggling to care for their children.

The Global Gag Rule isn’t good for patients. This policy makes it hard to provide comprehensive counseling, education and outreach, for example. Patients who need abortions and can’t get referrals may find themselves making unsafe and unhealthy choices on the basis of minimally available information. Lack of abortion care can make it challenging to treat patients experiencing complications after abortions, or bad pregnancy outcomes that may require surgical intervention.

Some entities aren’t willing to make that choice, like Family Health Options Kenya, which provides a range of family planning and health care services — including abortion. The group decided it didn’t want to comply with the terms of Trump’s executive order. As a result, the organization is losing some $2 million in funding – all because it wants to ensure patients have access to a range of health care options that meet their needs, without stigma or compromise. That’s nearly 60 percent of its operating budget, a harsh blow.

The clinic provides services like abortions for victims of child sexual assault, family planning for people who want to control the timing and spacing of their children, and a variety of sexual health services. It’s cutting back staff and services in addition to implementing fees that not everyone can afford. That’s going to exacerbate health care inequalities and, in turn, entrench poverty and suffering.

Family Health Options Kenya won’t be the last in a growing list of organizations losing foreign aid over this issue, however. SheDecides, a Dutch program fighting the Global Gag Rule and promoting sexual autonomy for women worldwide, is working hard to address funding imbalances created by the Trump administration’s cruel move.

But U.S. residents aren’t entirely powerless: We can contact our legislators to ask them to address this issue, and support organizations providing these services at home and abroad, like the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Photo credit: Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken


Marie W
Marie W5 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Mary B
Mary B10 months ago

No one should ever say this gag rules is from the United States, with out specifically pointing out it is the republicans who are behind it.THEY are responsible for the damage, pain and suffering this causes, and they should have their wages with held untill they STOP it. They are not fit to govern, so they do not deserve to be paid. If they insist on standing by their decision on principal , they still lose their pay.

Chad A
Chad A11 months ago

Thank you.

Amanda M
Amanda M11 months ago

Anti-choicers need to stop forcing their agenda of willful ignorance and religion-based myth/bias against women on the rest of society. Against abortion? Just don't have one. Against contraception? Don't use it. However, you need to STOP interfering with women's health care and keep your RELIGION-BASED views out of SECULAR society. This counts DOUBLE if you happen to be a man, because you can't get pregnant in the first place. Women need scientifically accurate information and contraception/abortion access, not religion-based lies and bullsh$t laws that serve only to interfere with our health care options. These anti-choice laws are going to result in more unwanted pregnancies, more abused/neglected children doomed to a life of hardship and abuse, and more women DYING because they have no other recourse than to opt for a DIY or back-alley abortion. That's not just going to happen overseas, it's going to happen HERE too. Leave out bodies and rights alone already!

john casablanca
john c11 months ago

Lawrence Galea - with regards to your comments to me - I say to you, DO NOT JUDGE OTHERS, UNLESS YOU WANT TO BE JUDGED and UNLESS YOU HAVE WALKED IN THE OTHER PERSONS SHOES, YOU CANNOT JUDGE THEM. Considering, by your name, you are of the male specie, and therefore unable to become pregnant, you should be very careful of your comments on an entity you have not experienced.
John C./Houston, Tx.

Winn Adams
Winn Adams11 months ago

tRUMP belongs in jail today.

Winn Adams
Winn Adams11 months ago

tRUMPie is a cancer on America.

Freya H
Freya H11 months ago

The same people who scream and how against abortion are frequently the same ones who oppose comprehensive sex education and access to contraception, both of which stop abortion by lowering the rate of unplanned pregnancies in the first place. Also, the politicians that suck up to the anti-choice crowd are usually the same ones who seek to slash welfare, SNAP, and other public aid to the bone - if not eliminate those programs altogether - while catering to the super-wealthy and greedy defense contractors.

Jenn C, contraceptives don't always work. Pills fail, condoms breaks, IUDs slip, et cetera.

Lawrence Galea needs to shut the hell up until he starts giving a rat's arse about children who have already been born, and who face poverty, hunger, homelessness, neglect, etc. The links he provides are to anti-choice propaganda and B.S. Report him as a troll.

Leanne K
Leanne K11 months ago

Of course. And american women will be dying soon. Tragic

Anne M
Anne M11 months ago

But isn’t that what the clinic is all about ?? - duhhhhh