The Global Gag Rule
The Expanded Global Gag Rule, officially titled Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance (PLGHA), denies foreign NGOs receiving US government assistance the right to use their own, non-US government funds to provide information, referrals or services for legal abortion or advocate to reduce legal restrictions on abortion in their countries. Under the terms of the policy, in order for an organization to remain eligible for US government funds, doctors, midwives, nurses, and civil society advocates cannot even mention the word abortion—much less provide abortion services—even for cases in which abortion is legal in their country and a woman requests it. Organizations that choose not to meet these restrictions lose all US government funding, including for 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 It was later rescinded by President Bill Clinton, reestablished by President George W. Bush, and rescinded again by President Barack Obama. President Donald J. Trump reinstated and expanded the Global Gag Rule in 2017 and expanded it again in June 2019.
Impact of the Global Gag Rule
Though the purported intent of the policy is to reduce the number of abortions, it has terrible consequences for the health and lives of poor women and their families, including increasing the number of unsafe abortions. Implementation of the Global Gag Rule has resulted in people in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East losing US government-donated contraceptives, and many organizations and clinics have been forced to reduce services, lay off staff, or shut down entirely.
EngenderHealth is a charitable organization focused on family planning, reproductive health, and maternal, newborn, and child health. Since the Global Gag Rule was first implemented in 1984, we have led US government funded programs at the country, regional, and global levels, addressing a range of US global health policy objectives, including advancing family planning, preventing HIV/AIDS, and improving maternal health.
As a US-based organization, EngenderHealth is not directly subject to the gag rule, but, because we work closely with organizations based in other countries and regions, the PLGHA restrictions have a significant impact on our operations, our compliance requirements, our partnerships, and our ability to improve health outcomes through our programs.
EngenderHealth is firmly committed to supporting women and girls in exercising their comprehensive sexual and reproductive rights, including the right to safe abortion. With support from donors other than the US government, EngenderHealth is actively engaged in expanding access to safe abortion for all who need it through a holistic approach involving work with individuals, communities, health systems, civil society, and more.
As EngenderHealth implements programs that yield life-saving and life-changing results, we have a laser-like focus on excellent stewardship of the funds generously granted to us by all our donor partners, which includes scrupulously following the laws and policies of the United States, where we are based, and of the countries where we work. We devote significant organizational resources at all levels to compliance.
Unfortunately, the US policy framework around abortion care, including PLGHA, reduces everyone’s ability to truly meet the health needs of women in those communities, and increases the instances of unsafe abortions and the associated negative health outcomes. These policies even restrict programs supported by funds from sources other than the US government, such as private foundations or other national governments, when we work in partnership with non-US organizations, simply because those partner organizations happen to receive US government funding for other work they do.
For more detail on the impacts, see our more detailed brief on the Global Gag Rule.