Sexual & Reproductive Health Experts Applaud President Joe Biden’s Removal of the Global Gag Rule, Say the U.S. Cannot “Stop Short”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, January 28, 2021

CONTACT: Madison Donzis | [email protected]

BREAKING: Sexual & Reproductive Health Experts Applaud President Joe Biden’s Removal of the Global Gag Rule, Say the U.S. Cannot “Stop Short”

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, as part of the recent flurry of actions to reverse policies put in place by the Trump administration, President Joe Biden signed a Presidential Memorandum that will put Congress on track to repeal the Global Gag Rule — a U.S. foreign aid policy that blocks U.S. global health assistance to organizations abroad that perform abortions or offer counseling on or information about the procedure.

Serra Sippel, President of CHANGE (the Center for Health & Gender Equity), a nonprofit organization comprised of global health experts who have worked tirelessly to protect and promote sexual and reproductive health and rights since 1994, issued the following statement in response:

“The Global Gag Rule (GGR) has always been a cruel policy aimed at women, girls, families, and LGBTQ+ communities around the world. It is neo-colonial in nature and, put simply, prioritizes the U.S. government’s power and control of people’s bodies over the human rights of autonomy and agency. Trump’s expansion of the GGR in 2017 was just another element of his administration’s crusade against women and the long-standing international consensus on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).

“CHANGE applauds President Joe Biden for keeping his promise to rescind this disastrous policy during his first days in office, a move that will undoubtedly put healthcare providers around the world back on track to offer critical sexual and reproductive healthcare services to people who need them most.

“But the long-lasting impacts of the Global Gag Rule don’t just disappear with the signing of a Presidential Memorandum. Global health partners must be able to entrust in the U.S. that the worst is over with a proactive statement of policy by the Biden-Harris administration, directives to staff, missions, embassies and implementing partners that they can safely move forward with rescinding the Global Gag Rule, and by ensuring that there are no unnecessary delays in removing the policy from existing agreements. Moreover, the Biden-Harris administration should issue a formal apology to the countries and implementing partners cut off from U.S. global health assistance due to Trump’s expanded GGR, which would signal that the GGR is no longer the status quo and that the U.S. empathizes with the residual effects of the previous administration’s reversal of countries’ progress toward achieving public health goals.

“There is still so much more to be done to achieve true gender justice and equality for all, and now is not the time for the world’s largest bilateral global health donorthe United Statesto stop short.

“We look now to President Biden to emphatically support SRHR for people around the globe, not just to undo the harms of the Trump administration. His administration must make it absolutely clear to all NGOs, multilateral organizations, and governments around the world that the U.S. recognizes and affirms universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.”

Trump’s expansion of the Global Gag Rule impacted all U.S. global health assistance—approximately $9-11 billion per year. Because of the policy, clinics and organizations around the world lost critical funding and were forced to shut down or cut vital services, including abortions. The policy also affected billions in funding for health programs providing everything from HIV prevention to malaria services.“We at the Center for Solutions Journalism are greatly excited that the new American president Joe Biden will actually remove the Global Gag Rule. We believe that the removal is a very positive step because it will ensure that many girls and women in Malawi will be able to access sexual and reproductive health services, without any problems or challenges. It should be known that during the implementation of the global gag rule, many women and girls actually had challenges to access the services. Sadly, we lost some women and girls who died due to unsafe abortions in Malawi and many other developing nations.” - Brian Ligomeka, Executive Director, Centre for Solutions Journalism (Malawi)

“As the women's movement is working on sexual and reproductive health and rights in Zimbabwe, we are really looking forward to the removal of the Global Gag Rule by the incoming president Joe Biden. For us, we noted a lot of negative impact which was brought about by the Global Gag Rule, which included the interference of services, particularly access to contraceptives, access to post-abortion care and even access to HIV & AIDS services in Zimbabwe. There were a number of organizations whose funding was withdrawn because of the Global Gag Rule. So, what we are looking forward to is that we are going to see those organizations who were previously affected by the Global Gag Rule come back and really operate at 100 percent, which means women in the hard to reach areas of Zimbabwe will be able to access contraception and other reproductive health and rights services. We also are looking at movement building for the abortion work that is being done in Zimbabwe because of the Global Gag Rule. It really deactivated the movement of organizations and individuals who were working on abortion cases. We hope with the removal of the Global Gag Rule, we’ll be able to reconvene and strategize and push for the law in Zimbabwe on termination of pregnancy to be reviewed.“ - Edinah Masiyiwa, Director, Women’s Action Group (Zimbabwe)

“The news that Joe Biden might revoke the Mexico City Policy, which is popularly known as a Gag Rule, but especially to women and girls, because this law will have a great impact in the life of women and girls. It will bring back their dignity and their right to life. Most of young women lost their life because they used the backyard abortion services because of the fact that most of the community-based organizations who were providing sexual and reproductive health services for the most vulnerable groups in our community had to close down. This then says to us as civil society organizations, we need to continue to advocate for the rights of women and girls to be able to access the sexual and reproductive health services and engage our government in those issues.“ - Nonhlanhla Skosana, Education and Mobilisation Unit Manager, Sonke Gender Justice Community (South Africa)

FOR MORE INFO ON THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE GGR: https://srhrforall.org/download/trumps-global-gag-rule-policy-and-research-brief/?wpdmdl=2335&refresh=600f291b559891611606299

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CHANGE is a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization that promotes sexual and reproductive health and rights as a means to achieve gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, by shaping the public’s conversation, elevating women’s voices, and influencing U.S. and global policies. We are guided by our vision of a world that respects, protects, and honors sexual and reproductive rights for all. Our work is grounded in and driven by a human rights framework at the intersection of multiple sectors including women’s rights, human rights, family planning, maternal health, HIV and AIDS, and gender-based violence.

 

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