Opinion: Why AU students should care about repealing the Global Gag Rule

The time for youth activism is now

Opinion: Why AU students should care about repealing the Global Gag Rule

On March 26, the Trump administration released a statement saying it would further expand the Mexico City Policy, otherwise known as the Global Gag Rule (GGR). This is a policy that cuts U.S. funding from non-governmental organizations (NGO)s to hinder their ability to use any funding towards abortion as a family planning service overseas. The GGR feeds into health inequities, prevents non-profit organizations from serving the communities they work in and places the lives of millions in danger. 

This is the second time the Trump Administration has expanded the GGR. Although the GGR was originally imposed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, it initially only restricted NGOs from using U.S. funds for abortion services. In 2017, Trump announced that the GGR would cut U.S. funding for NGOs that used their own money and funding not provided by the U.S. for family planning services. On March 26, Mike Pompeo declared another expansion of the GGR, one that entails cutting funding from NGOs that provide non-U.S. funding to other organizations that “support or promote abortion” as a family planning service. This is all in an effort to end all “backdoor funding schemes.”

Secretary Pompeo and the Trump administration have used family planning as a political issue to retain the support of anti-abortion groups and individuals. What Pompeo and the Trump administration won’t mention is that they have also decided to cut funding for other health issues including HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Zika, tuberculosis and nutrition programs. Despite how the Trump administration wants to frame it, access to family planning services is a health issue. 

According to Advocates for Youth, the NGOs that are on the ground can’t decide whether or not to provide necessary treatments with every coming administration. The information simply doesn’t reach them in time. Thus, even when the GGR isn’t in place, the NGOs are operating like it is. The direct impact of this policy causes NGOs to stall the programs they have running, lose donations of valuable materials (including condoms and contraceptives) and lose the ability to expand their HIV prevention and treatment services to better serve the communities they work in. As Sen. Jeanne Shaheen,D-N.H., said, "Further expanding the global gag rule puts international organizations in an impossible position: provide women the full scope of reproductive health care services or deny critical funding that saves lives. That is unconscionable."

Women’s rights are human rights. Sexual and reproductive rights are human rights. Access to healthcare is a human right. Now more than ever, it’s imperative that we stand up to the Trump administration and use our voices as the catalysts for this movement. You may not think you can make a difference because of your age. I urge you to hold strong because, when young people set their minds to something, the results are monumental. Our voices are heard, laws are reformed and societal change happens. From the student-led sit-ins of the civil rights movement to Malala Yousafzai's international contributions to girl’s education, history has shown us that youth activism is a powerful force. So, I  urge you to call your local representatives and senators, visit them on the Hill, and push them to pass the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (H.E.R.) Act.

With the H.E.R. Act, we would indefinitely repeal the GGR. Through the GGR, the U.S. and the Trump Administration are constraining the ability of NGOs to use their own money for their family planning services and their ability to monetarily contribute to other organizations. At a time when progress on HIV and AIDS has halted, it is imperative that Congress work together to pass the Global H.E.R. Act. The Global H.E.R. Act is a bipartisan and bicameral initiative, garnering support from Democrats and Republicans alike. It was recently reintroduced to Congress by Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Nita Lowey and has received support from Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. 

Let Congress know that we will not sit idly by as millions are denied the care they need. Infringement on the rights of the few is infringement on the rights of all. Let them know that young people’s voices matter. They say AU is one of the most politically active campuses in the country, so let’s act like it.

KeKe Debebe is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs. She is an outside contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff. 


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