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Pathfinder International Condemns Global Gag Rule

The Global Gag Rule is a Bad Policy that Undermines Women’s Health and Threatens Lives

January 23, 2017, BOSTON—Pathfinder International today expressed its disappointment in President Trump’s decision to impose the global gag rule, a punitive policy that risks women’s lives around the world.

The global gag rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy) puts politics above women’s health and imposes harmful restrictions on healthcare providers around the world. The global gag rule cuts off US funding to foreign organizations who are associated with any kind of abortion-related services including counselling, advocacy, and referrals to providers—even if the organization uses its own private money to provide these services.

“The gag rule will reverse decades of progress on women’s health by preventing clinicians from providing quality care to the women who depend on them,” said Caroline Crosbie, acting CEO of Pathfinder. “We know what happens when providers are forced to choose between US assistance and providing the care their patients have a right to receive—clinics close and women are denied access to basic health services.”

According to the Guttmacher Institute, US funding for contraception last year helped prevent 6 million unintended pregnancies, 2.3 million abortions (2 million of them unsafe), and 11,000 maternal deaths. The United States is a leader not only on reproductive health, but foreign aid as a whole—however the global gag rule threatens that leadership.

“Abortion is legal in many countries where we work.  Imposing the global gag rule will force many organizations and clinicians to disregard their local laws and deny women rights that are legally theirs,” Crosbie said. “Stopping organizations from speaking freely about abortion in their own countries is counter to the American commitment to free speech and promoting democracy.”

At issue is not how foreign organizations spend American aid dollars—the Helms Amendment of 1973 ensures the United States Agency of International Development (USAID) does not allow funding for abortion services as a method of family planning. The gag rule explicitly controls how foreign clinics spend their own private funds in order to be eligible to receive US aid. This restriction clearly impedes free speech and democracy, while at the same time denying access to services to those who need it most.

Studies by the International Food Policy Research Institute and Stanford University demonstrate that when the gag rule was previously imposed, there was a measurable increase in women seeking post-abortion care in Ghana and across Africa.

Pathfinder is proud to be one of more than 130 organizations opposing the global gag rule.

About Pathfinder International

Pathfinder International is driven by the conviction that all people, regardless of where they live, have the right to decide whether and when to have children, to exist free from fear and stigma, and to live the lives they choose. Since 1957, we have partnered with local governments, communities and health systems in the developing world to remove barriers to critical sexual and reproductive health services. Together, we expand access to contraception, promote healthy pregnancies, save mothers’ lives, and stop the spread of new HIV infections, wherever the need is most urgent. Our work ensures millions of women, men, and young people are able to choose their own paths forward.

For more information, please contact:
Colleen Fazio, Pathfinder International
cfazio@pathfinder.org
+1 617.972.1336