Donald Trump has proven right out of the gate that he intends to restrict women’s access to reproductive healthcare not just here at home, but around the globe. On Monday, he signed an executive order reinstating the Mexico City policy, also known as the “global gag rule.” The Reagan-era policy prohibits United States funding from going to non-governmental international organizations that advise women on family planning and reproductive health and mention abortion as an option, or refer women to other organizations that might provide abortions or abortion counseling.
It’s no surprise that Trump has reinstated the policy—not just because we can expect him to do every regressive thing toward women he possibly can, but because the past several presidents have tossed the policy back and forth like a hot potato. Bill Clinton revoked the policy, then George W. Bush reinstated it, Obama revoked it again and now here we are with Trump putting it back in place yet again. It’s the one-step-forward, two-steps-back version of progress in women’s rights and healthcare.
It’s already illegal for U.S. dollars to fund abortion at home or abroad (despite what Planned Parenthood detractors would have you believe), so what’s insane about this policy is that it essentially blackmails organizations into pretending that abortion isn’t an option—even if U.S. funds aren’t in play. If organizations want to receive U.S. funding at all, they’re not allowed to find funds elsewhere to provide abortions. They can’t offer abortion counseling. They can’t even refer women to organizations that aren’t bound by the the gag rule.
You can’t get a much clearer symbol of the undue power men in politics have over women’s bodies.
A 2003 report by the Guttmacher Institute compiled more than 100 in-depth interviews in four countries that were (and now will be again) deeply impacted by the gag rule: Peru, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya. The report highlighted some chilling statistics, like how unsafe abortions are the second leading cause of death for women of reproductive age in Ethiopia, more than 40 percent of Kenya’s maternal mortality rate is due to unsafe abortion and approximately 350,000 clandestine abortions are performed annually in Peru, resulting in the hospitalization of one in seven women who have had abortions. It’s a heartbreaking look at just how far-reaching and deadly this rule is, and it’s maddening that we knew all of this more than a decade ago but are back at square one again.
The report also identified eight main ways in which the gag rule is harmful, including: it condemns women to unsafe abortion; it reduces access to other reproductive health services; and it infringes upon national sovereignty. This isn’t just about abortion access, it’s about the United States overreaching its influence and using much needed aid to manipulate international organizations into abiding by our politics.
Some hoped that attacking abortion access and women’s health would be among the campaign promises Trump would break, but he’s made it clear that he intends to be just as big a threat to women as his opponents feared.
You can’t get a much clearer symbol of the undue power men in politics have over women’s bodies than the newly newly-minted president reinstating this order while surrounded by seven other straight white men. This happened just two days after millions of women around the world took to the streets to defend their rights. And yet somehow, people questioned why they were marching in the first place.