Everyone remembers the photo of President Trump signing an anti-abortion edict stripping women in developing countries of their reproductive rights. Two years after the global gag rule was reinstated, Democratic lawmakers have quashed the order for good.
If you were asked to cast your mind back to 23 January 2017, you might struggle to recall anything especially significant. But if you were shown a photograph of President Donald Trump sitting at his desk in the Oval Office, surrounded by a semi-circle of white men looking over his shoulder as he signed yet another executive order into law, the memories of his controversial first few days in office might well come flooding back.
The photograph in question showed Trump reinstating a global gag order, otherwise known as the Mexico City Policy, which banned US-funded organisations around the world from performing or promoting abortion care. If that wasn’t bad enough, Trump’s then-press secretary, Sean Spicer, heralded it as a move “to stand up for all Americans, including the unborn.”
Though every Republican president since Ronald Reagan has implemented the gag rule, Donald Trump took it to new levels when he expanded the order to prohibit NGOs who refused to sign from gaining funds to help with a range of global health concerns, including HIV, primary care, nutrition, tuberculosis and malaria programs.
US health organisations had good right to be concerned. According to the International Women’s Health Coalition, which has been monitoring the two-year impact of the global gag rule, the rollback on abortion access has endangered the health and lives of millions of women in developing countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Nepal.
But in the wake of an unprecedented number of abortion bans spreading across US red states, there comes, finally, a major legal victory that could turn the tide back in support of women’s reproductive rights.
In a major step towards fighting the growing wave of anti-abortion legislation, Democratic U.S lawmakers have voted to repeal the global gag rule, meaning they can begin to restore access to family planning programs across the world
Both of the local and international gag rules were permanently quashed in a near $1 trillion 2020 spending bill for the U.S. government’s State, Labour, Health and Human Services, which also prohibits healthcare providers from refusing to help LGBTQ patients and those who’d had abortions based on a “freedom of conscience”, as well as overturning Trump’s discriminatory measure blocking transgender people from serving in the military.
The bill wasn’t solely focused on repealing controversial policies, though. $55.5 million in U.S. funding to the United Nations Population Fund, a family planning organisation, while $165 million was allocated to prevent gender-based violence, with further funding set aside to fight child marriage and protect LGBT rights.
“We applaud the House for passing this important bill that will repeal the disgraceful global gag rule,” said Brian Dixon, spokesman for the Population Connection Action Fund. “The Trump administration’s assault on reproductive health and rights is having devastating consequences for people around the world.”
With the launch of Planned Parenthood’s major new campaign dedicated to fighting the abortion bans, and the news that Trump’s policy preventing undocumented, unaccompanied teenagers from accessing abortion services has been overturned, one thing is clear: women’s reproductive rights aren’t going to be stripped away without a fight.