In his first few days in office, President Donald Trump signed multiple executive actions, one of which reinstated the global gag rule. The global gag rule prevented international aids given to health clinics that proposed abortions as a family-planning option (Talbot, 2017). Created back in 1984 under the Reagan Administration, the rule manifests the anti-abortion sentiment of the Republican party, which proclaims that “the United State does not consider abortion an acceptable element of family planning program and will no longer contribute to those of which is a part” (Talbot, 2017). The rule was in effect for seventeen years but has been rejected by every Democratic president who has succeeded Ronald Reagan since then.
The new law will prevent governmental aid to be distributed to non-governmental organizations in developing countries if they give abortion counseling or provide abortion. In particular, President Trump’s party and his supporters approve this new decision because they believe that the global gag rule will stop these organizations from using tax money to assist the killing of unborn children in poor countries (Sengupta, 2017).
Opponents of this law, however, contend that the law significantly undermines women’s reproductive health rights by thwarting poor women from access to abortions. Adrienne Lee, the representative for Population Action International, a reproductive right group from Washington, claims that the law will affect “every program that falls under global health assistance” (Sengupta, 2017). In fact, instead of lowering the rate of abortion, the revision of an old law would increase the abortion rate, which would consequently push women to undergo unsafe abortion. Globally, there are seven million women treated each year for complications, disabilities, and diseases due to unsafe abortion, and sixty eight thousand women die annually from the procedure. In rural areas where contraceptive methods and birth-control information are especially hard to find, women tend to seek out unsafe methods to terminate pregnancy, using “herbs, or sticks or turpentine, or bleach, or punches to the stomach, or in unsterile procedures carried out by incompetent practitioners” (Talbot, 2017). Therefore, by stopping health clinics to provide abortions to women, the new law indirectly exposes women to severe health risks.
Scientific research also proves the detrimental effects of the global gag rule. In their first quantitative study to evaluate the law, two health policy researchers from Stanford, Eran Bendavid and Grant Miller, conclude that “the number of women having induced abortions more than doubled between 2001 and 2008 in the African countries most affected by the policy” (Gorlick, 2011) In particular, Miller explains that because the closure of family-planning clinic leads to a short supply of modern contraceptives, women use traditional abortions as “a substitute” (Gorlick, 2011). Furthermore, the law also made women in developing countries less likely to obtain female health necessity, such as “vaccinations, prenatal support, and cervical cancer screenings” (Gorlick, 2011).