Washington, DC – Today, more than 140 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Departments of State and Health and Human Services expressing opposition to the administration’s unprecedented proposed effort to expand the Global Gag Rule as a 60-day public comment period comes to a close. Led by Representatives Jackie Speier, Nita Lowey, Barbara Lee, Diana DeGette, Lois Frankel, Brenda Lawrence, and Ami Bera, the letter demands answers on outstanding implementation questions.

Also known as the Mexico City Policy, the Global Gag Rule prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance from providing information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocating for access to abortion services, even with their own money. The proposed rule would newly extend these harmful restrictions to all global health contracts.

“The Trump Administration won’t stop until all women are denied the right to make decisions about their bodies and their health care,” said Congresswoman Jackie Speier, co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus. “As if its unprecedented reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule weren’t enough, the Administration proposes to go even further to rip away health care amid a global pandemic and undermine the effectiveness of our foreign assistance. I urge the Administration to abandon this cruel and counterproductive proposal and instead do some good by working with our global health partners to fight the coronavirus pandemic and keep us all safe.”

“This administration’s expanded Global Gag Rule has gravely diminished the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance, silenced medical professionals, threatened the health of the world’s most vulnerable women at an unprecedented level, and has forced clinics to choose between providing limited reproductive health services while accepting U.S. foreign aid or providing inclusive family planning and reproductive health care with a limited budget,” said Congresswoman Nita Lowey.

In the letter, the lawmakers noted that the State Department’s own review of the Global Gag Rule, released in August 2020, documented serious disruptions to global health programming, and organizations have reported that they received little guidance from the U.S. government, leading to overreach in implementation and overinterpretation of the policy’s restrictions out of fear and uncertainty over compliance.

The lawmakers also stressed that further expanding this policy will likely again produce significant confusion resulting in a chilling impact on health services. They emphasized that now, during an unprecedented global pandemic, is not the time to expand a policy that threatens access to health care programs, including COVID-19-related programs, which may disproportionately impact vulnerable populations and communities around the world.

"The health of women around the world is severely endangered by the Trump administration's oppressive Global Gag Rule," said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. "Especially as we battle COVID-19 globally, healthcare implementers and providers should not be restricted from providing the best care for their patients and providing them with comprehensive reproductive health care. An anti-choice administration and politicians should not be in the position of giving healthcare providers ultimatums and preventing them from even discussing abortion with their patients.”

“No organization should be forced to choose between providing patients with access to life-saving medical care or accepting U.S. aid that they need to stay open,” said Congresswoman Diana DeGette. “The Global Gag Rule is nothing more than another dangerous attempt to eliminate women’s rights to reproductive care worldwide and should be withdrawn immediately.” 

 “The Trump administration continues to wage a dangerous war on women’s health, even in the middle of a global pandemic,” said Congresswoman Lois Frankel. “It’s shameful that this administration is requesting to expand the dangerous, deadly Global Gag Rule, which threatens health care access for millions of women and girls around the world.”

“The Trump Administration will stop at nothing to roll back women’s reproductive rights,” said Congresswoman Brenda L. Lawrence, co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus. “In the midst of a global pandemic, reinstating and expanding the Global Gag Rule not only reduces the effectiveness of U.S. global health assistance, but forces partners to choose between providing reproductive health services and the organization’s survival, ultimately harming some of the most vulnerable communities seeking access to care. This Administration’s cruelty knows no bounds.”

“The Trump Administration’s Global Gag Rule jeopardizes life-saving global health programs and makes it even harder for women and families in developing countries to access critical reproductive health care,” said Congressman Ami Bera, M.D. “The Administration’s decision to expand this policy will further hinder our ability to fight against epidemics like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria at a time when the global community is already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. I stand with my colleagues in opposition to this harmful policy.”

The letter also outlines several specific questions for response and urges the administration to withdraw the proposed expansion, which will cause unmitigated harm to the world’s most vulnerable people.  

The complete text of the letter is available here.