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The Global Gag Rule

Also known as the Mexico City Policy

The "Global Gag Rule," otherwise known as the Mexico City Policy, required that any overseas organization receiving U.S. aid not have anything to do with abortion. Doctors, midwives, and nurses could not even mention the word abortion—much less provide abortion services with their own funds—even if it was legal in their country, or if a woman asks. Organizations that did not meet this condition lost all U.S. funding, including essential supplies of contraceptives.

President Ronald Reagan first established the Global Gag Rule in 1984. It was later rescinded by President Bill Clinton, reestablished by President George W. Bush in 2001, and rescinded again by President Barack Obama in 2009.

Impact of the Global Gag Rule
Though the Global Gag Rule was meant to target abortion providers, it had terrible consequences for the health and lives of poor women and their families in ways that had nothing to do with abortion. From 2001 to 2009, 20 developing countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East lost U.S.-donated contraceptives, and many organizations and clinics were forced to reduce services, lay off staff, or shut down entirely.

EngenderHealth helped document the impact of the Global Gag Rule in such countries as Nepal (PDF, 888kb), Kenya (PDF, 324kb), and Zambia (PDF, 300kb). In each of these places, the Global Gag Rule affected family planning, HIV services, maternal and child health, and even malaria services. And in no place did the policy reduced abortions. In fact, the irony is that this policy led to more unwanted pregnancies.

Read a report EngenderHealth co-authored, Access Denied, on the harmful impact of the Global Gag Rule. And you can hear about EngenderHealth's experience with the Global Gag Rule from Dr. Isaiah Ndong, Vice President of Programs, on PBS' weekly show Foreign Exchange. Dr. Ndong also appeared as a guest on the Reproductive Health Reality Check blog.

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