Global Gag Rule

Updated in July 2022

The Global Gag Rule (also called the Mexico City Policy), first enacted by President Ronald Regan in 1984, prohibits foreign non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) from receiving any U.S. funding if they “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.” This includes counseling, referrals, or advocacy; U.S. aid would be withheld from organizations receiving U.S. family planning assistance even if a given NGO used their own (non-U.S.) funds or funds donated by another country. This policy is effectively a "gag," blocking access to health care, stifling local advocacy efforts and public debate on abortion-related issues, and undermining reproductive rights worldwide.

President Trump drastically expanded the Gag Rule to include funding designated to combat health crises like malaria, HIV, and tropical diseases and even funding for basics like nutrition and safe water. The policy forces NGOs to make the difficult choice between offering honest and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care or receiving critical U.S. funding.

The Global Gag Rule has been rescinded and reinstated by incoming political administrations and in effect for 22 out of the last 38 years. In January 2021, President Biden officially rescinded the policy but further action from U.S. Congress is needed to prevent future U.S. presidents from reinstating and expanding the policy. With the Supreme Court ruling undoing Roe v Wade and abortion protection, it is uncertain what will happen next.

The International Women's Convocation supports the passage of the Global HER Act (The Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights Act), which would prevent a future U.S. president from unilaterally imposing the Global Gag Rule. Passage of the Global HER Act would permanently end the Global Gag Rule by removing dangerous eligibility restrictions on international recipients of U.S. assistance. The HER Act would guarantee that U.S. foreign aid promotes health care that is free from stigma and discrimination and prioritizes women’s health. It also shows support and encouragement of the principles of democratic participation and freedom of speech.