WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump’s administration announced the details Monday of the president’s unprecedented international anti-abortion policy, which drastically expands the “global gag rule” that past Republican presidents have placed on U.S. health assistance funds.
The gag rule, also known as the Mexico City policy, blocks international family planning assistance through the U.S. Agency for International Development to any groups or programs that provide or even mention abortions to women, or speak out about abortion laws in their own countries. It was last implemented by President George W. Bush and then was repealed by President Barack Obama.
Trump’s plan, called Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance, goes much further than that. The policy applies the anti-abortion rule to $8.8 billion in global health funding furnished by the State Department, USAID and the Department of Defense, instead of only $600 million in family planning funding. This means that a clinic receiving U.S. assistance for HIV or Zika relief will lose all that money if it so much as gives pregnant women information about safe abortion care.
“The pro-life policy will apply to global health assistance funding for international health programs, such as those for HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria, global health security, and family planning and reproductive health,” a White House official told Christian Broadcasting Network News.
CBN News’ David Brody called the policy “yet another evangelical victory under this administration.”
Unsafe abortion accounts for 13 percent of maternal deaths ― about 47,000 deaths per year ― worldwide. And because the U.S. is the largest funder of global health programs in the world, the policies governing U.S. foreign aid can have a significant chilling effect on abortion and contraception access for women and girls in developing countries.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) called Trump’s expansion of the gag rule an “ideological crusade” that ignores “decades of research” on preventing unplanned pregnancies and protecting maternal health.
“Today, the Trump administration confirmed our worst fears regarding this new, drastically expanded global gag executive order,” Shaheen said. “This administration’s pathetic rebranding of this policy is a thinly veiled attempt to hide the tremendous harm it has around the world. President Trump’s dangerous obsession with rolling back reproductive rights has severe consequences for millions of vulnerable women and children, and grossly undermines our nation’s humanitarian leadership around the globe.”
This article has been updated to note the announcement of the policy.