How the Global Gag Rule will do more harm than good

Trump is not wasting time. Three days into his term, President Trump reinstated the Global Gag Rule. This executive order, first established in 1984 by Ronald Reagan, forbids international non-governmental organizations from receiving U.S. government funding if they perform, discuss, or even mention abortion services. Historically, the Global Gag Rule is a controversial subject even amongst presidents. Since its initial implementation, the order has been repealed twice and then reinstated twice, as of Monday.

The reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule incited immediate reactions ranging from anger, outrage, protest and outright refusal to obey. Population Action International, a global family planning advocacy organization, claims that the reinstatement is “the beginning of the Trump-Pence administration’s agenda to punish women everywhere.” Slate magazine called the order a “public health disaster.” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told Democracy Now, “Women will die because of this action.” Meanwhile, over 130 organizations have signed a coalition statement opposing the Global Gag Rule.

Besides the rule’s blatant violation of women’s right to make informed decisions about their health, there is evidence that legitimizes arguments opposing the rule’s revival. The Global Gag Rule prevents family planning providers abroad from accessing U.S.-provided contraception and other family planning tools. This in turn increases the number of unintended pregnancies by 52 million and the number of unsafe abortions by 14.9 million per year, out of over 225 million women worldwide.

The biggest irony, however, is the Global Gag Rule does not even accomplish its main mission: to prevent abortion. Research shows abortion rates actually increased when Bush reinstated the global gag rule. Stanford University researchers found that in sub-Saharan African countries there is strong evidence the Global Gag Rule “is associated with increases in abortion rates.” Need more proof? Marie Stopes International, a global non-governmental organization that provides family planning and abortion services, estimates that the Global Gag Rule will result in 6.5 million unintended pregnancies and 2.2 million abortions during Trump’s term.

In reality, the only thing the order does is prevent women from the safe, accessible healthcare they deserve. Trump’s reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule does not reflect a “pro-life” policy decision, but rather an action that threatens the lives of thousands of women globally.