Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights is relieved that the Biden administration has prioritized the repeal of the Global Gag Rule.
The Global Gag Rule (or Mexico Policy) caused real and serious harm to women around the world and is a violation of international development agreements signed by the United States.
Trump’s version of the Global Gag Rule was more extreme than past administrations and extended to all global health assistance provided across US departments. In 2019, the Global Gag Rule further extended to the activities of other donors and non-governmental organizations. The political and financial impacts were significant and far-reaching. Trump’s policy impacted $12 billion US in global health funding, which included programming for maternal health, family planning, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and more. The policy led to shortages in resources, the closure of health facilities, a chill-effect on all related care (including the provision of family planning, contraceptive counselling, etc.) and on advocacy, as well as denied people lawful safe abortion services.
Since 2015 and in the wake of the Trump presidency, Canada has provided clear direction in its support of full reproductive health services, including abortion care. A commitment that was solidified in response to the growing funding gap with $1.4 billion annually directed toward global health, $700M/year of which is earmarked for sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The Global Gag Rule, and policies like it, violate international human rights law and run counter to the work of feminist and women’s rights organizations around the world. The repeal of the Global Gag Rule creates an opportunity for the US and Canada to align efforts in filling the gap in global funding for the delivery of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services, as well as support for feminist and women’s rights organizations who are leading advocacy, research, innovation and movement building in this area.
The blatant refusal to respect women’s and trans peoples’ decisions about their own bodies is a human rights violation that forces many who are seeking abortion care to turn to unsafe practices.
In addition to the political barriers, abortion care is an essential medical service that has been adversely affected by COVID, in Canada and around the world. Politics and limitations on primary health care and travel, coupled with financial barriers, mean those seeking care are either delaying or unable to access abortion. Governments around the world, including Canada and the US, must recognize abortion as essential and take steps to guarantee access during the pandemic at home and abroad.