Trump's Expansion of Global Gag Rule Affects Health Funding

President Donald Trump speaks during the 36th annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service Monday

Under the guise of "Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance", President Donald Trump's newly renamed version of the Mexico City Policy will reportedly offer almost $9 billion in government funding to health care organizations around the world, provided those organizations don't offer abortion services. However, President Trump has expanded the pro-life taxpayer protections to include global health dollars, so that it would apply to almost nine billion dollars in US taxpayer funds to foreign non-governmental organizations.

Senior administration officials confirmed Monday (local time) that Trump's version will impact US$8.8 billion for programmes related to AIDS, malaria and child health. Without funding, these organizations will be unable to provide integrated maternal health care with contraceptive services, HIV prevention, care and treatment services, or counsel women on their potential risks of Zika infection, among many other services, leaving communities and entire health systems devastated.

PAI, a global advocate for contraceptive and reproductive health, said the new restrictions would "broaden the reach of the policy's already deadly effects, including increasing unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and maternal and child mortality".

Trump also expanded the policy by directing his incoming secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, to apply the ban to a larger range of global aid programs.

The new policy applies to funds provided to foreign non-governmental organisations, but not to aid provided to governments or multi-lateral organisations, the state department said. And so the funding will be restricted when it comes to groups that provide those sorts of services or mention them or talk about them.

Suzanne Ehlers, president of Washington-based Population Action International which lobbies in the USA and developing countries for women's reproductive health, said in a statement that the change would "cause unspeakable damage to integrated care efforts across all health sectors".

Within days of his inauguration, Trump signed an executive order that reinstated the "Mexico City Policy", which bans USA taxpayer funds for the provision or promotion of abortions overseas. Developing countries have spent the past decade revamping their health systems so patients can get many types of care in one place.

"We prevent unwanted pregnancies, we prevent abortions, and we prevent maternal death", Eugene Kongnyuy, deputy representative for the United Nations agency in Nigeria, said in an interview earlier this month.

Other programmes affected by the expanded policy, called Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance, include the President's Malaria Initiative, which received about $621m in funding in 2016, according to its website.

The "Mexico City policy" dates to 1984, when then-President Ronald Reagan declared it at a population conference in the Mexican capital.

Pro-life experts praised the Trump administration's decision, saying it aligned with his campaign promises to promote conservative policies worldwide.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, that's any US agency, any USA department now falls under this rule?

"And in a way, his coming into the movement as an ally seems to have freed him to be able to take a lot of actions that others might have been a little too skittish to take", she said. Groups that support this rule - and we heard from a lot of them today - say that, you know, they're ensuring that USA funds aren't sitting groups even that support these sorts of abortion policies that they don't agree with.

The core services we provide are contraception, safe abortion (where abortion is legally permitted) and post-abortion care.

Democratic Reps Nita M Lowey, Eliot L Engel and Louise M Slaughter of NY, and Barbara Lee of California marked the rule's start by calling it "a cruel and unprecedented attack on the world's most vulnerable women".

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