Management Sciences for Health Decries Expansion of the Global Gag Rule

{Photo credit: Chevenee Reavis/MSH}Photo credit: Chevenee Reavis/MSH

Arlington, VA — The U.S. State Department yesterday announced plans for implementing the current administration’s expanded Global Gag Rule, renaming it “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance.” In its new form, this policy risks the lives, health, and resiliency of families, communities, nations, and economies.

The Administration’s unveiled expansion imposes restrictions to all global health assistance provided by the Department of State, USAID, and the Department of Defense, totaling over $8.8 billion dollars in more than 60 vulnerable countries.

“As an organization committed to saving lives and improving the health of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, MSH is proud to be a partner in that important work,” said Marian Wentworth, MSH’s President and CEO. “But we are deeply concerned about the impact that this expanded policy will have on the people we serve, on the rights and wellbeing of women and communities, and on global stability and health security.” 

For over half a century, the American people’s investments in preventing and treating infectious diseases; increasing access to family planning and reproductive health services; improving care for mothers and newborns; fighting HIV and AIDS; and strengthening health systems have saved the lives of millions of women and children, and contributed to a world that is more stable and more secure for everyone.

By preventing MSH and other U.S.-based organizations from working with the full range of qualified, experienced local partners that we know from experience are the most effective, this policy hinders our ability to strengthen health systems in low-income countries so that they can effectively deliver health services to the women and families who need them.

“This policy not only restricts women’s access to family planning, but reduces the lifesaving impact of programs that ensure safe childbirth for women and their newborn babies, deliver lifesaving vaccines to millions of children, fight Zika virus and prevent epidemics, provide treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS, and build strong, sustainable health systems that can deliver equitable, high-quality health services to all who need them,” added Wentworth. 

The Global Gag Rule, reinstated by President Trump’s executive order on January 23, 2017, prohibits foreign non-governmental organizations from receiving U.S. global health funding if they provide, give counseling on, advocate for, or refer clients for abortion services—even in cases where abortion is legal and even if they do so only with non-U.S. funds. While previous Administrations applied the Global Gag Rule only to health programs supported by U.S. family planning funding—with severely negative impacts on women’s access to contraception and many other health services in countries—the new version requires that the policy be applied to virtually all U.S.-funded global health programs.