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President Biden Repeals a Major Barrier to Reproductive Health

Today, President Joe Biden has signed an executive order to repeal the Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy. This removes a major obstacle to reproductive health and rights globally. MADRE applauds President Biden’s decision to end this harmful and dangerous policy.

Under the Trump administration, the Global Gag Rule applied to any foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive US aid. It blocked them from providing legal abortion services, information or referrals. It even targeted them for advocating for abortion access in their country — even if they did so using their own funds.

The Trump administration also expanded the Global Gag Rule in unprecedented ways. The rule was made to apply to NGOs that receive any US global health aid, not only family planning funding. It also prevented any US-supported foreign NGOs from funding other organizations that ‘provide or promote’ abortion services.

This was the broadest, most sweeping iteration of this policy, which had far-reaching and devastating consequences. The Global Gag Rule has prevented organizations from offering safe family planning services or referring people for lifesaving abortion care. This leads to a reduction in contraceptive use and an increase in unsafe abortions, worsening the risk of death and injury. It slashed funding to organizations that not only offer reproductive and maternal health care, but that also treat HIV, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses — all the more cruel in a global pandemic.

While rescinding the Global Gag Rule is a crucial immediate step, there’s more to do. We urge the Biden administration to call on Congress to pass the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule through legislation. This will end the cycles of policy harm, securing its repeal through future administrations and enabling the US to rebuild trust and partnerships to advance reproductive health globally.

President Biden should also support the repeal of the Helms Amendment, which prohibits US foreign aid — to NGOs, governments, and multilateral agencies — from being used to provide abortion services, by urging Congress to pass The Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act.

MADRE will continue our unwavering commitment to reproductive health and rights. We will continue to support our grassroots partners who work to provide critical reproductive health services.

January 28, 2021