Reaffirming support for widely expanded global gag rule, Sec. Pompeo denies policy has affected global health responses, and adds restrictions

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

Reports from nongovernment organizations providing health care in Africa and Asia that have cited specific damaging impacts to women’s healthcare access, “are just wrong,” Sec. Pompeo said.*

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 U.S. family planning assistance programs. Expanded as the “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,” policy in the week after President Trump took office, the policy now is applied to funding for all health responses, including programs addressing HIV, Zika and Ebola.

Sec. Pompeo speaking to reporters this morning.

Asked if, in denying funding to organizations that provide HIV and tuberculosis prevention and treatment services, the administration was prioritizing 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.”

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 President’s 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. 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 U.S. contribution to the Organization of American States in response to “evidence of abortion-related advocacy” on the part of its human rights and women’s programs.

*A Nation report this week discusses some of the organizations and services affected.

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