In January 2017, the so-called ‘global gag rule’ was reinstated by President Trump. The rule, which had been rescinded by President Obama when he entered office, means that the US government will not give any aid to organisations which provide abortion services or even provide clients with information about them. Two months later, the US administration announced that it would stop all support for the United Nations Population Fund – UNFPA – which provides and coordinates family planning in the world’s poorest countries. 

At the time the cuts were made, the US was the world’s largest funder of family planning services through overseas aid.

The Trump administration extended the provisions of the Global Gag Rule prohibition beyond family planning to other health services, such as child and maternal health programmes and HIV prevention, compounding the effect of cuts to the overall US aid budget.

Hitting hardest where the need is greatest

The effect of the Global Gag Rule is to force family planning and health service providers to choose between closing "noncompliant" programmes so they can continue to receive US funding, or losing vital financial support. Many larger, international providers, such as Marie Stopes International, have chosen to continue without US funding but grassroots projects may have little choice other than to cut badly-needed services so that they can keep going at all.

International family planning organisation PAI has documented how grassroots services have been affected, including how a Ugandan family planning organisation lost 30% of its funding in 2017.

Evidence shows that where abortion is banned, illegal abortion simply becomes more prevalent. According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly 7 million women in developing countries were treated for complications from unsafe abortion in 2012. More than 22,000 women die every year because of unsafe abortion, almost all of them in developing countries.

The Guttmacher Institute‘s latest reports on the effects of the US cuts determined that each decrease of $10 million in U.S. funding would result in the following:

  • 416,000 fewer women and couples would receive contraceptive services and supplies;
  • 124,000 more unintended pregnancies, including 54,000 more unplanned births, would occur;
  • 53,000 more abortions would take place (35,000 of which would be provided in unsafe conditions); and
  • 240 more maternal deaths would occur.

Take action

Defend family planning

Ask your government to defend family planning by providing additional funding and support to the affected family planning programmes. Please also ask it to urge the US administration to restore funding to the UNFPA.

In the UK, please contact Secretary of State for International Development Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP via enquiry@dfid.gov.uk

If you are a US citizen, please contact your elected representatives. You can contact Senators here and Congressional representatives here.