As one of his first presidential actions, President Trump has signed an executive order to reinstate the global gag rule, officially called the Mexico City policy, which prohibits federal funding to go to foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that discuss abortion with patients.
It has been a political battleground ever since President Ronald Reagan signed it into law in 1984, with democratic administrations rescinding it and republicans reinstating it. Under the 1973 Helms Amendment, NGOs have been banned from receiving federal funds if they provide abortion services abroad but the gag rule prevents them from even discussing abortion as an option.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, the policy shuts down effective family planning programs that help prevent unwanted pregnancy through contraception assistance, safe sex education, and yes, information about abortions. The result is an increase in STDs and unwanted pregnancies throughout the developing world.
Supporters of the rule believe that it reduces the number of abortions worldwide but the facts are against them. In 2011, researchers at Stanford University examined the impact of the gag rule in Sub-Saharan Africa and found that areas impacted by the rule saw more abortions, not less. NGOs who provided education and family planning assistance were shut down and women lost access to contraception, leaving them to chose unsafe, often DIY abortion techniques to eliminate unwanted pregnancies.
This is the standard across the board with anti-abortion regulations: banning abortion does not decrease abortion in the slightest. It only decreases the number of safe abortions. Nevertheless, Republican lawmakers continue to fight the facts.
As with many of Trump’s policies, it is difficult to know where he personally stands on this issue. He was publicly pro-choice for many years but during the recent election, he claimed to have “evolved” and is now ardently pro-life. It might have simply been a lie to pander to his conservative base and help win him the presidency. His reinstatement of the gag rule might be another action motivated less by personal belief than alignment with a powerful and pro-life Republican congress. It also does not matter which one is true. Genuine or not, his order will have serious ramifications for women around the world.