AVAC Statement on the Expanded Global Gag Rule

May 15, 2017

Today the Trump Administration took steps to implement a policy change that will endanger the lives of millions of adolescent girls and young women living in countries supported by US global health development aid. The State Department released a communication on the expansion of the “Global Gag Rule” — also known as the Mexico City Policy. The updated policy applies not only to US global health assistance for family planning—as have previous iterations of the Global Gag Rule—but to all US global health assistance.

The expansion has been erroneously rebranded as “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance.” This policy is not life-saving; it is the opposite. This expanded rule will force clinics to close and women to lose access to contraception, HIV prevention and maternal health care, resulting in more unintended pregnancies and more unsafe abortions. It will prevent advocates, community health workers and others from sharing important information with women and girls most at risk.

Today’s announcement makes it crystal clear that the new administration does not value the lives of women and girls. US government funding and support for service provision and research and development under long-standing bipartisan leadership from both the legislative and executive branches has saved millions of lives and helped advance human rights for girls and women in Africa. It is infuriating to see Donald Trump roll back advances in health and human rights for women and girls with the stroke of a pen.

We know that because of the George W. Bush administration’s use of the Global Gag Rule many women and girls in developing countries were unable to access family planning and health services and some of them died because of that. With the present “youth bulge” in Africa, there are, in some countries, double the number of young people than there were when the epidemic began. Many of these young people are more concerned about pregnancy prevention than they are about HIV prevention; they need comprehensive services for both HIV and family planning. Today there are millions of girls and young women seeking access to contraception, HIV prevention and treatment and other health services. The Trump administration has just closed the doors to clinics offering comprehensive services that will save their lives and the lives of their children.

AVAC and our partners in Africa will do all that we can to help ensure that lifesaving programs and information for women and girls continue. And we will continue to speak out against the immoral and anti-public health decisions made by this administration.