Revoking global gag rule will save lives, civil society says

Kenyan civil society organizations (CSOs) focused on reproductive health and justice have welcomed US President Joe Biden’s decision to revoke the Global Gag Rule.

On January 28, President Biden revoked the Mexico City policy, more commonly known as the Global Gag Rule.

The policy, which had been enacted by Trump’s administration in 2017 prevented US government funds from going to any foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide abortion-related information, referrals, or services, even with privately raised or non-US funds.

It acted as a “gag” on health care providers worldwide, prohibiting them from even counseling women about their reproductive choices or referring them to other health providers for care.

“In the last four years, the Global gag rule has had catastrophic consequences on women’s lives here in Kenya as our research documented these findings in 2018 and 2019. The Trump administration went over and above to extend the policy to any healthcare organization that also happened to provide other aspects of reproductive care, setting back years of extensive work to integrate health services ” said Jedidah Maina, the Executive Director at trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH).

“This meant organizations providing care in the fields of HIV/AIDS, malaria, maternal and child health which also may have provided reproductive care to women and girls, abortions, or abortion counseling — were at risk of losing billions of dollars in U.S. aid unless they stopped any and all levels of their abortion care,” said Nerima Were, Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network (KELIN)

A large portion of reproductive health service providers in Kenya, especially those in poor and marginalized communities, are funded and supported by foreign aid organizations that were directly crippled by this directive as study findings from the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC).

“As our research demonstrated in 2020 that this policy was an exportation of harm and it resulted in confusion, mis-trust and dis-integration of health services. The revocation of the Mexico City Policy is a welcomed relief,” Kenneth Juma, APHRC

Advocates in Washington D.C. are already hard at work to reintroduce the Global Health Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act, a bill that would permanently end the global gag rule and ensure that future Republican presidents cannot reinstate it.

While legislative processes can be slow, the movement remains optimistic.

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