Trump details anti-abortion ban over US global health aid

Trump details anti-abortion ban over US global health aid

The Trump administration's new "Protecting Life in Global Assistance" policy makes not only State Department funds fall under the Mexico City, but some Department of Defense money too, to a new total of $8.8 billion that can't be used to promote abortions overseas.

On May 14th, President Donald Trump issued a statement in honor of National Women's Health Week, pledging to "recognize the importance of providing women access to the best, evidence-based health information and care". The department also did not say how the policy would be enforced, but pointed out that the agency receives quarterly reports on their program partners.

Trump restored the Mexico City Policy by executive order to stop taxpayer funding of groups that perform and promote abortions overseas but it does not stop non-abortion global assistance.

"Trump's Global Gag Rule impacts about 15 times more USA funding and also extends the reach of restrictions beyond NGO grants and cooperative agreements to contracts", the Population Action International, a global family planning and reproductive health group, said in a statement.

"The policy will apply to all new funding agreements (grants, cooperative agreements and contracts) for global health assistance, and to existing agreements when amended to add funding", the State Department said in a statement posted on its website.

Previously the policy only applied to family planning assistance provided by the State Department and USAID.

The gag rule, also known as the Mexico City policy, blocks worldwide family planning assistance through the U.S. Agency for global Development to any groups or programs that provide or even mention abortions to women, or speak out about abortion laws in their own countries.

And it was made clear, from that January memorandum, that Trump's order would mark an expansion of the rule, as it directed the Secretary of State "to implement a plan to extend the requirements of the reinstated Memorandum to global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies". He expanded it to include not just family planning assistance but all USA global health funding-an unprecedented move that swept up many other critical programs in addition to family planning, including those that address HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, and Zika response.

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CBN News reported that the money will come from the US State Department, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Defence Department.

The Reagan-era rule bars USA aid from going to global NGOs that offer abortion services or even provide information about it as an option-even when they use non-U.S. funds to do so.

It remains an open question whether others, with their back to a wall, will shift their family planning policies to guarantee continued USA funding. The expanded policy also does not apply to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief or to United Nations funds and programmes. And the USA role in global health has increased over time.

The administration policy does not prohibit referrals for terminating a pregnancy caused by rape or incest or for one that endangers the woman's life. The cut in funding could also threaten clinics that treat patients with HIV, malaria, Zika, and Ebola.

"And in a way, his coming into the movement as an ally seems to have freed him to be able to take a lot of actions that others might have been a little too skittish to take", she said.

Suzanne Ehlers, president of Washington-based Population Action International which lobbies in the USA and developing countries for women's reproductive health, said in a statement that the change would "cause unspeakable damage to integrated care efforts across all health sectors".

In his first few months in office, Trump has repeatedly pushed extremely regressive policies on women's health.

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