The president has only been in office since his inauguration Friday and he's already altering the future of women's health—not just within the United States, but worldwide. In one of his first acts as president, Trump signed an executive order Monday to reinstate the federal ban on U.S. funding for foreign health organizations that promote or provide abortion services. This policy is known as both The Global Gag Rule and The Mexico City Policy. As reported by Cosmopolitan, this should come as no surprise. Trump has promised before that he would take action against abortion and this is likely just the first step.
This order comes just two days after millions stood up for gender equality and the Woman's March and one day after the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It was also announced last week that U.S. abortion rates are the lowest ever since Roe V. Wade.
The Global Gag Rule was first established by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. As reported by BBC, since its enactment, the policy has been deeply partisan. Each Democratic president rescinds the gag rule, and each Republican reinstates it. President Bill Clinton rescinded the rule, President George W. Bush reinstated it, and President Barack Obama revoked the rule when he entered office in 2009.
In the past, many organizations choose to comply with this policy, but the International Planned Parenthood Federation, IPPF, walked away and gave up their federal funding when George W. Bush took office and rescinded the policy, according to NPR. When President Obama reinstated the policy in 2009, it came with a new emphasis on international women's healthcare in impoverished countries, and IPPF was back on board and ready to receive funding.
So what impact could this have on abortions worldwide? It likely won't stop abortions—but instead will make them much less safe for women and girls. The World Health Organization estimates that over 21 million women each year have unsafe abortions in developing countries, which accounts for 13 percent of all maternal deaths. Without funding, these numbers could rise. “Trump’s global gag rule will obstruct and destroy the work of health care providers who are often women’s main—and sometimes only—source for reproductive health care, and their entry point for receiving a wide range of primary health care services,” Suzanne Ehlers, president and CEO of PAI told Vox. Vox reports that the global gag rule does not necessarily reduce abortions—Sub-Saharan Africa had higher abortion rates after George W. Bush reinstated the policy, because women had less access to birth control. That caused them to have more unwanted pregnancies, and, therefore, more abortions.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat of New Hampshire and the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Foreign Policy that she is planning to take legislative action against the reinstatement of the global gag rule. "I will continue to stand up to President Trump and Republican leadership in Congress who are intent on rolling back women’s access to reproductive healthcare, and will soon be introducing bipartisan legislation aimed to repeal the Global Gag Rule for good,” she said. “Women around the world deserve to make important personal health care decisions without politicians in Washington interfering.”