International Women's Convocation

Unitarian Universalist Women’s Organizations Oppose the Global Gag Rule

Arlene Johnson, president of the International Women’s Convocation, and Justice Waidner Smith, president of the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation, have issued a statement opposing the newly restored Global Gag Rule:

The U.S. has a long history as a leading donor and implementer of global health programs. For decades, our leadership has improved the health of individuals in developing countries.

One of the first acts of the presidency of Donald Trump was to reinstate and greatly expand the so-called “global gag rule” which withholds American aid from health organizations worldwide that provide information, referrals, or abortions or advocate for access to abortion. The rule applies even if organizations use their own non-U.S. funds and even if abortion is legal in their own country.

When in place under past administrations, the negative impacts have been broad and severe, from dismantling community health services to closing clinics that provided a range of reproductive, maternal, and child health care, including HIV testing and counseling. Outreach efforts to at-risk populations were eliminated. Access to contraceptives was greatly restricted, resulting in more unintended pregnancies and more unsafe abortions.

This past week, the administration released the 2017 global gag rule implementation guidelines, renaming the policy “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” which greatly expands previous versions. It will affect about $8.8 billion in global health funding, up from about $520 million during the administration of George W. Bush. It was rescinded by former President Obama.
For the first time ever, international organizations providing any of these health care services will be banned from all global health funding from the U.S. government for medical aid completely unrelated to reproductive health. Women and girls are most at risk as a result of this policy.

Close to 160 organizations have joined together as diverse voices from a variety of faith and secular sectors to oppose this harmful, punitive global gag rule.

Our foreign aid should never be used as a tool to limit women’s access to health care or to censor free speech.