US re-instating the ‘Global Gag Rule’ – what now?

21.02.2017 09:30 - English

Thera Mjaaland (UiB) and Camila Gianella (UiB) in conversation with Ragnhild Osnes Legreid (BRC).

Under the Obama period, around 600 million dollars has been channelled through USAID every year to fund family planning and reproductive health programs in addition to the around 30 million dollar given to UNFPA for related activities.

Since 1973 none of these US-funds could be used for abortion-related activities. When Reagan first instituted the Global Gag Rule (or Mexico City Policy) in 1984, organizations that received US funding for family planning were not even allowed to use funding from other donors to inform or perform abortion-related activities.

This rule was lifted during Clinton’s and Obama’s 8-year periods in the White House. With Trump’s reinstating of the global gag rule, organizations that are committed to continue their abortion-related activities will again have to decline US funding for family planning, or stop their abortion related-activities altogether.

Media reports so far have been focused on the deadly consequences for women of potentially losing their access to safe abortion services where these are legally available. But the question is whether the situation is the same this third time around with ‘global gag rule’?

Will other funders and governments who have signalled that they are willing to step in, be able to fill the funding gap? Will increased access to medical abortion and the current emergence of women’s community-based structures for information and access to reproductive commodities, contribute to a counter-acting of the ‘global gag rule’? Will we see a re-channelling of US-funding to anti-abortion rights organisations?

Camila Gianella (UiB) and
Thera Mjaaland (UiB) in conversation with
Ragnhild Osnes Legreid (BRC).

Camila Gianella
is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen and associated researcher at the Centre on Law and Social Transformation. She specialises in Sexual and Reproductive Rights Lawfare and is part of the research projects ‘Abortions rights lawfare in Latin-America’, and ‘Political determinants of sexual and reproductive health: Criminalisation, health impacts and game changers’.

Thera Mjaaland
is a social anthropologist affiliated to UiB Global, University of Bergen, specialising on gender issues in Ethiopia. She is a member of the research group Global Health Anthropology that focuses on inequalities in health with specific relevance for women’s reproductive rights, and is part of the research project ‘Competing discourses impeding girls’ and women’s rights: fertility control and safe abortion in Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania’.


Photo: DFID – UK Department for International Development / Flickr

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