Summary: Trump widens scope of ‘gag rule’ restricting NGOs’ ability to provide health and family planning services

23rd January 2017: President Donald Trump has signed an Executive Order expanding the reach of a policy which restricts the services and information foreign NGOs can provide if they receive US government global health funding.

Since 1973, the Helms Amendment has barred any US foreign aid from being used to perform or provide information about abortion. These restrictions apply to all US aid, including humanitarian aid to women and girls raped in war, which violates their rights to necessary medical care under the Geneva Conventions. The Global Gag Rule extends the reach of Helms by limiting what foreign organisations receiving US global assistance funds can do even with their non-US funds, and restricts the information and counselling that women can receive.

SRT grantee the Global Justice Center undertakes research and advocacy to promote the enforcement and implementation of international human rights law and particularly women’s rights. The organisation has campaigned against Helms and the Gag Rule since 2010, and in 2015 successfully lobbied the EU to require that its humanitarian aid funding “not be subject to restrictions imposed by other partner donors”, including the Helms Amendment and recognize abortion as protected care under the Geneva Conventions.

President Trump’s Executive Order widens the Gag Rule from its previous iterations to apply not only to family planning assistance given by the United States, but too all global health assistance provided by the US, which includes funds from the State Department, USAID, Department of Health and Human Services (including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute of Health), Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Department of Defense.

The expansion of this rule will also have sweeping consequences for organisations working on a broad range of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, ultimately limiting women’s ability to access vital maternal health, family planning, HIV treatment and education services. According to Akila Radhakrishnan, Vice President and Legal Director of the Global Justice Center, 13% of maternal deaths around the world are from unsafe abortion, and the reintroduction and expansion of the rule is likely to lead to an increase in such deaths.

Full coverage from the Global Justice Center’s website:

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