Trump Just Made It Harder to Talk About Abortion — and That Will Make Them More Common

January 23rd 2017

Lucy Tiven

President Donald Trump signed an executive order reinstating the "Global Gag Rule" on Monday, banning non-governmental organizations that provide or even mention abortion from accepting U.S. aid.

Trump's signature comes the day after the anniversary of Roe. v. Wade, marking 44 years since the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a woman's right to choose to have an abortion.

Also known as the Mexico City Policy, the gag rule was introduced by former President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

The rule was revoked by former President Bill Clinton in 1993, reinstated by former President George W. Bush in 2001, and reversed again by former President Barack Obama in 2009. The rule forces NGOs to stop providing and talking about abortions if they want U.S. funding. (The Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, prohibits domestic funding of abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is at risk.)

Advocates for reproductive rights condemned the decision.

“The death rate both from maternal mortality because of more pregnancies and from those seeking unsafe abortion is going to rise quite dramatically,” vice president and director of international operations for Marie Stopes International Marjorie Newman-Williams told Buzzfeed News. The group, an NGO providing abortion and contraceptive access globally, told said Trump's policy would result in about 2.1 million additional unsafe abortions worldwide.

"When in place, the negative impacts of the global gag rule have been broad and severe: health services have been dismantled in a number of communities; clinics that provided a range of reproductive, maternal, and child health care, including HIV testing and counseling, were forced to close; outreach efforts to hard to reach populations were eliminated; and access to contraceptives was severely limited, resulting in more unintended pregnancies and more unsafe abortions," Planned Parenthood said in a statement cosigned by more than 100 other organizations, including the ACLU and Human Rights Campaign.

When implemented, the gag rule has increased abortions and maternal mortality rates due to limited contraceptive access.

In a 2001 study, Stanford University researchers investigated the impact of the policy on women in 20 African countries between 1994 and 2009. Abortion rates went up 40 percent under President Bush and more than doubled in the countries most impacted by it, they found, while clinic closures forced more women to get abortions due to limited access to birth control, researchers Eran Bendavid and Grant Miller argue in a news release.

Stanford Gag Rule Study

A 2003 report from the Center for Reproductive Rights links the Bush-era gag rule to high maternal mortality rates among women in low-income countries as a result of more unsafe abortions. A 2010 report from Population Action International (PAI), finding the rule gutted women's access to contraceptives, said it resulted in worse health outcomes overall.

“The Trump Administration and Republican leadership have made no secret of their dangerous obsession with rolling back reproductive rights,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) said.

“President Trump’s reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule ignores decades of research, instead favoring ideological politics over women and families," Shaheen added, promising action. "I will continue to stand up to President Trump and Republican leadership in Congress who are intent on rolling back women's access to reproductive healthcare, and will introduce bipartisan legislation to repeal the Global Gag Rule for good."