On January 23, just days after stepping into his new role, Trump, surrounded by a cadre of somber-suited men, issued a presidential memorandum reinstating and significantly broadening a policy that eliminates funding to organizations providing, advising or educating about abortions.
Trump’s memorandum significantly broadens the scope of the rule
The Mexico City policy, also known as the global gag rule, has been alternatingly repealed and reinstated with each administration, Trump’s memorandum expands its scope far beyond previous iterations.
Previously, the policy has been aimed at family-planning organizations that receive funding from the Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department. Under Trump’s memorandum, he 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.”
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on health issues, the new rule would therefore cover money coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institute of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and even the Peace Corps.
This means that not just family-planning organizations, but also organizations primarily responding to HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, or other diseases, could risk losing funding.
“It is not only [creating a] chilling effect on family planning,” said Dr. Mengistu Asnake, the Ethiopia country representative for Pathfinder International, an international family planning organizations. “It will create a chilling effect on every health program.”
According to Suzanne Ehlers, president and CEO of the global reproductive health organization PAI, formerly known as Population Action International, this expansion to all global health funding means a $9.5 billion impact on U.S. foreign aid rather than $600 million.
“It wasn’t unexpected that they would reinstate the global gag rule,” said Geeta Rao Gupta, a senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation, “but the dramatic expansion of the scope of it is truly shocking.”
“This is really an extreme order,” confirmed Lori Adelman, director of global communications at Planned Parenthood. “It is more extreme than under any other Republican administration.”
Clinics face a tough choice
For those organizations that receive aid, they now find themselves in a difficult situation: Do they abide by a policy they don’t believe in, or risk closing?
Marie Stopes International, an organization that provides family-planning and abortion services internationally, said it would not agree to the policy because “it violates our core belief in individual choice.”
Gupta believes many other organizations will follow suit. “Just knowing the organizations we work with, whose mission is overall health, I can’t imagine they would accept a foreign government’s requirement that is so broad.”
Even if organizations do abide by the memorandum, and agree to avoid discussing abortion in any manner, they will still be impacted.
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