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US reinstating the ‘Global Gag Rule’ – what now?

Thera Mjaaland (UiB) and Camila Gianella (UiB) in conversation with Ragnhild Osnes Legreid (BRC).

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Global Gag Rule

Every year under the Obama administration, around 600 million dollars was channelled through USAID to fund family planning and reproductive health programs. This was in addition to the 30 million dollars UNFPA received to fund related activities.

Since 1973 these funds could not be used for abortion-related activities. When Reagan first instituted the Global Gag Rule (or Mexico City Policy) in 1984, organizations that received US funding for family planning were not even allowed to use funding from other donors to inform about abortion-related activities.

This rule was lifted during Clinton’s and Obama’s 8-year periods in the White House. With Trump reinstating the global gag rule, organizations that are committed to continue their abortion-related activities will again have to decline US funding for family planning, or stop their abortion related-activities altogether.

Media reports so far have been focused on the consequences for women potentially losing their access to safe abortion services, where these are legally available. But the question is whether the situation is the same this third time around with ‘global gag rule’.

Will private funders and other governments, who have signalled that they are willing to step in, be able to fill the funding gap? Will increased access to medical abortion and the emergence of community-based structures for information and access to reproductive commodities, contribute to neutralise the effects of the ‘global gag rule’? Will we see an increased US focus on anti-abortion rights organisations? 

Camila Gianella (UiB) and Thera Mjaaland (UiB) in conversation with Ragnhild Osnes Legreid (BRC). 

Camila Gianella is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen, and an associated researcher at the Centre on Law and Social Transformation. She specialises in Sexual and Reproductive Rights Lawfare and is part of the research projects ‘Abortions rights lawfare in Latin-America’, and ‘Political determinants of sexual and reproductive health: Criminalisation, health impacts and game changers’.

Thera Mjaaland is a social anthropologist affiliated with UiB Global, University of Bergen, specialising on gender issues in Ethiopia. She is a member of the research group Global Health Anthropology that focuses on inequalities in health with specific relevance for women's reproductive rights, and is part of the research project ‘Competing discourses impeding girls’ and women’s rights: fertility control and safe abortion in Ethiopia, Zambia and Tanzania’. 

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