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US secretary of state defends 'Global Gag Rule' on pregnancy termination

Claiming that the “vast majority of our implementing partners have agreed to comply” with the policy expanded by US President Donald Trump banning any US-funded overseas organisation from providing any information, services or referrals to terminate a pregnancy, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has reiterated administration support for the restriction widely known as “the Global Gag Rule.”

According to a Science Speaks blog, Pompeo said reports from non-government organisations providing health care in Africa and Asia that have cited specific damaging impacts to women’s healthcare access, “are just wrong”.*

The blog says the policy, known originally as “the Mexico City Policy” when established by President Reagan in 1984, and widely known as the Global Gag Rule for its restrictions on information and referrals, originally applied only to funding provided under US family planning assistance programmes. Expanded as the “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,” policy in the week after Trump took office, the policy now is applied to funding for all health responses, including programmes addressing HIV, Zika and Ebola.

Asked if, in denying funding to organisations that provide HIV and tuberculosis prevention and treatment services, the administration was prioritising preventing abortions over life-saving efforts, the secretary responded “one need not perform abortions in order to protect people from HIV. They’re fundamentally disconnected.”

The blog says in February, researchers with amFAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, and the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health released a report on a survey of Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief partners finding that multiple services unrelated to abortions had been affected by the policy. According to the report services that had been reduced or discontinued included ones to prevent mother to child HIV transmission and mobile outreach for adolescents living with HIV.

The blog said in January, Planned Parenthood released a report based on previously published findings as well as on-the-ground interviews detailing cuts in support for community efforts, and closed programs, that had reduced access to health services, and squandered the training and resources that had gone into them.

Presentations at the 2018 International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam also highlighted impacts of the policy that included harms from non-medical abortions sought by women in the absence of family planning and reproductive health information and referrals.

In remarks that he said were intended to highlight the administration’s commitment to protecting “the least among us,” and “the sanctity of life,” the secretary also announced a cut in the US contribution to the Organisation of American States in response to “evidence of abortion-related advocacy” on the part of its human rights and women’s programmes.

[link url="https://sciencespeaksblog.org/2019/03/26/reaffirming-support-for-widely-expanded-global-gag-rule-sec-pompeo-denies-policy-has-affected-global-health-responses-adds-restrictions/"]Science Speaks blog[/link]

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