In his first days as President of the United States, Donald Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy. Also known as the Global Gag Rule, the policy “gags” international NGOs receiving U.S. aid by not allowing them to “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.” First enacted by President Ronald Reagan, U.S. funding for critical reproductive healthcare abroad has been a partisan issue ever since with every Republican President instating the policy and every Democratic repealing it. President Trump’s reinstatement of the policy greatly expanded its parameters and includes a wide range of global health programs such as HIV funding through PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). The expansion of the policy diminished the provision of services by international NGOS who weren’t previously affected by the policy and who feared losing critical funding from the U.S. Last week, a study published in the Lancet found that when the Mexico City Policy is instated, rates of abortion in sub-Saharan African countries increase. The study posits that the increase in abortion is likely caused by an increase in unintended pregnancies, due to decreased access to birth control; many organizations affected by the policy also deliver modern contraceptives to women. The study’s implications for global reproductive health demonstrate the need for thoughtful, data-driven policy that considers the cascading and diffuse effects of restricting funding for abortion. Research by DGHI Doctoral Scholar Kelly Hunter will further our understanding of the damaging impact of the Global Gag Rule on women’s health outcomes in Kenya.



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