End the Global Gag Rule: Pass Global HER Now

The Global Gag Rule has been intermittently preventing global communities from accessing comprehensive healthcare for the last 37 years. This Global Gag Rule Repeal Week of Action, it’s important to recognize that ending this harmful policy is extremely urgent. Rebecca Dennis, Senior Legislative Policy Analyst at PAI, sits down to update us on the Global Gag Rule, the impacts it has had around the world, and what we can do to make sure it is repealed once and for all.


The Global Gag Rule is an executive-level policy that has existed under every Republican presidential administration since Ronald Reagan, but was vastly expanded under Donald Trump. The policy under Trump withheld global health assistance funding from foreign NGOs unless they agree to not use any of their own, non-U.S. funding to provide abortions or any information, education, counseling, or referrals for abortion care. This was a huge expansion compared to under previous administrations where it only applied to family planning funding.  To learn more about the history of the Global Gag Rule, find our podcast episode here!


The Global Gag Rule has prevented people around the world from accessing sexual and reproductive health care, maternal and child health care, HIV testing and treatment, tuberculosis and malaria testing and treatment, and nutrition programs. It has limited which commodities—including methods of contraception—can reach communities, and caused organizations to have to end entire programs. The rule has also restricted outreach to hard-to-reach communities, including young people, LGBTQI+ people, and those living in very rural areas or refugee camps.


For many years, the policy only applied to U.S. family planning and reproductive health programs. But after the Trump administration’s entry into the Oval Office in January of 2017, one of their first executive actions included re-instating and massively expanding the Global Gag Rule to impact all U.S. global health assistance funding. This expansion went above and beyond USAID, ultimately impacting programs in the State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The administration expanded it a second time, changing the interpretation of the policy and forcing organizations that were complying with the policy to ensure that any of their partnerships were complying, as well even if they did not get any impacted U.S. health funding. 


In January of 2021, the Biden-Harris administration repealed the Global Gag Rule. Despite this momentous step, the policy is not a light switch that can be turned on and off. Many organizations who did not comply with the rule now have to wait until there are additional funding opportunities with the U.S. government, while some are concerned that the policy might return and interrupt their work, again. Even beyond all of this, clinics have closed, and staff have been laid off around the world due to this rule. 


Congress has the ability to amend the Foreign Assistance Act and clarify that an organization cannot be deemed ineligible to receive U.S. global health assistance on the basis of the services they provide. Passing the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights Act (Global HER Act) would prevent the Global Gag Rule from ever being re-instated again. 


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