When President Trump announced in January he was bringing back the global gag rule, which bars foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from receiving any U.S. funds if they offer abortion services, counseling, advocacy or even referrals, many commentators noted that he had made the policy more punishing.
Trump had expanded the restrictions, also known as the Mexico City Policy, to ensure that it covers not only family planning funding but all global health funding. That means “funds that would have been destined for programs to combat HIV/AIDS, to promote maternal and child health and to prevent childhood diseases” would be cut off for any organization that gives any information about abortion or supports its legalization.
“It will lead to more unsafe abortions, increased deaths of women and young women, and even increased numbers of newborn deaths,” one nonprofit official said, and studies have found that the rule actually increases the abortion rate by undermining reproductive health programs and access to contraception.
Now it appears that the Trump administration is expanding the global gag rule even further.
David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network reports that the Trump administration is bent on “drastically increasing the amount of global health assistance funds and government programs that will be covered under the policy.”
A White House official told Brody that “foreign NGOs that agree not to perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning, or provide financial support to any other foreign non-governmental organization that conducts such activities, will remain eligible for global health assistance funding.”
It appears that under this policy, any organization that even supports a separate group that supports abortion rights or shares information about abortion will no longer be eligible for U.S. funding.
President Trump reinstated the policy in January after eight years of it lapsing under President Obama. The order also directs Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to come up with a plan on how to apply the policy to all departments or agencies. The exact language is as follows:
I direct the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to the extent allowable by law, to implement a plan to extend the requirements of the reinstated Memorandum to global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies.
I further direct the Secretary of State to take all necessary actions, to the extent permitted by law, to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars do not fund organizations or programs that support or participate in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.
The key line from the memorandum is where it says the secretary of state will be allowed to “extend the requirements of the reinstated memorandum to global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies.”
Brody, who hails the rule as “another evangelical victory under this administration,” cites a Marist poll showing wide disapproval towards “federal funding of overseas abortions” to defend the policy, despite the fact that this rule has a far greater impact than funding abortion services.