(Photo: Amref Health Africa)
Amref Health Africa has endorsed the following statement with over 450 international organizations. Download the statement and view the full list of endorsers here.
February 2, 2016 - We join together as diverse voices from a variety of sectors to oppose the harmful global
gag rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy. While the Helms Amendment restricts U.S.
foreign assistance funding for abortions “as a method of family planning,” the global gag rule goes
a step further by blocking aid to foreign organizations who use their own non-U.S. funds to
provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or to advocate for access to abortion
services in their own country.
The global gag rule causes serious harm in countries around the world. The policy interferes with
the doctor-patient relationship by restricting medical information healthcare providers may offer,
limits free speech by prohibiting local citizens from participating in public policy debates, and
impedes women’s access to family planning by cutting off funding for many of the most
experienced health care providers who chose to prioritize quality reproductive-health services and
counseling over funding that restricts care and censors information.
When in place, the negative impacts of the global gag rule have been broad and severe: health
services have been dismantled in a number of communities; clinics that provided a range of
reproductive, maternal, and child health care, including HIV testing and counseling, were forced
to close; outreach efforts to hard to reach populations were eliminated; and access to
contraceptives was severely limited, resulting in more unintended pregnancies and more unsafe
abortions. Here is the testimony of one organization that experienced the impact of the global gag
“After refusing the terms of the gag rule in 2001, at Family Health Options Kenya we lost
a significant amount of funding from USAID with serious and damaging effects on our
ability to provide crucial reproductive health and family planning services. We were forced
to close six clinics, all of which provided critical services to poor and underserved
populations in urban, peri-urban and rural areas including family planning, voluntary
counseling and testing for HIV, management of sexually transmitted infections, postabortion
care and maternal and child health services. Following the closure of these
clinics in 2005, at least 9,000 people – primarily women and children – were left with little
or no access to health care.” - FHOK, 2013
Countries around the world are making significant progress in improving women’s health and the
global gag rule undermines that momentum. Developing and donor countries alike are stepping
up to prioritize and make tangible headway in closing the gap on access to modern family
planning through increased funding and better policies. This momentum, which includes global
partnerships like Family Planning 2020, builds on the essential foundation of U.S. investments in
this sector. The global gag rule seriously hinders the effectiveness of U.S. global health
investments and the growing global progress that we, as a global community, have made in
expanding access to family planning for couples worldwide and in reducing maternal mortality.
The U.S. has been a leader when it comes to promoting democracy, women’s health, and human
rights around the world. U.S. foreign aid should never be used as a tool to limit women’s access
to health care or to censor free speech. Organizations should not be disqualified from receiving
U.S. assistance because they use their own funds to provide health services and information that
are legal in their home country and legal in the U.S. Supporters of global health and
development, women’s rights, gender equality, and free speech oppose the harmful global
gag rule and reject efforts to undermine the health and rights of women around the world.