Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, December 18, 2018

We need to talk about the Global Gag Rule

How you can help overturn a dangerous rule

We need to talk about the Global Gag Rule

The Global Gag Rule is another piece of United States policy that limits what people can and can’t do with their bodies.

The rule states that any organization receiving aid from the United States cannot associate themselves in any way with abortion. Medical professionals of any form cannot even mention the word abortion. They cannot perform abortions, discuss them, or point their patients in the direction of a clinic that offers safe abortions. Mind you, this isn’t just for the money that the United States provides them with, this also dictates what they can do with their own money.

This policy has been in place since the Reagan Era. It has executive power, meaning that the president can rescind or reestablish it as they please.

When Trump was inaugurated, it took him three days to reinstate this policy with additional, more life threatening, restrictions. The policy was extended to HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Zika treatment providers. What once was a plan that applied to $575 million in funds, will now reach an estimated $8.8 billion, according to The Washington Post.

What was meant to attack abortion providers has instead targeted women across the globe. When a woman cannot get a safe abortion at her local clinic, she will seek unsafe options. The World Health Organization estimates that 22,000 women die annually from abortion related complications.

Organizations are afraid to talk to their patients about any form of contraception, with fear that providing the wrong services will make them lose their U.S. funding. This being said, the laws of the Global Gag Rule are very vague, and many nongovernmental organizations do not have the legal power to decipher the fine print details.

Currently, congressmen hope to pass the Global HER Act. It reverses the Global Gag Rule, and takes away its executive power. This way, when a new president is elected into office, organizations do not need to worry about their funding and practices being disrupted.

If you are interested in advocating for international women’s reproductive rights, especially the Global HER Act, there are two ways you can get directly involved.

On Nov. 9, the International Youth Leadership Council is hosting a Global HER Act Lobby Day. All who participate will receive free lobby training. With the act still in the introductory stages in the House of Representatives, it is important that we lobby for co-sponsors for the bill. If you, or your campus organization, is interested in participating in this lobby day, you can sign up here.

If you are unable to attend the lobby day, you can still contact your representatives via email or text. This action takes two minutes, at most, and can be done while waiting in line for your latte at the Dav or for the AU shuttle. A basic script is as follows:

Hi, my name is [NAME] and I live in [CITY]. I’m calling to ask [REPRESENTATIVE/SENATOR’S NAME] to support the Global HER Act, and to help protect millions of women and families around the world. Trump’s Global Gag Rule undermines public health, women’s empowerment, and democratic participation. It is counterproductive and cruel. I urge [REPRESENTATIVE/SENATOR’S NAME] to support the Global HER Act, which would repeal the Gag Rule and prevent a future president from reinstating it. I am counting on you to do the right thing and stand up for global reproductive healthcare. Thank you for your time.

In addition to these two direct methods of action, you can also help by getting out the word to folks you know. Not many people know what the Gag Rule is, and how much it affects women and families across the world.

If you have any more questions, would like to get involved, you can email me at

Madelynn Bovasso is a freshman in the School of Public Affairs.

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