Tackling the Gag Rule is beyond money -it’s about saving lives

Two girls smiling

Human rights have always been an important issue but never have they commanded the public agenda as they do now.

Politically, ethically, socially and morally what we are seeing on our newsfeeds goes beyond a lot of what we have been accustomed to. It is our new reality.

It’s the same for the policies around human rights that shape our lives, both in developed and in developing countries. These rapid shifts towards restrictive policies throw out the tremendous progress we have made working together as a global community.

For us this is crystallised in  the Mexico City policy, known as the Global Gag Rule. It denies U.S. funding to organisations like IPPF if they use money from other donors to provide abortion services, counselling or referrals—even if abortion is legal in a country.

But not one US dollar that we receive goes on abortion. Instead it blocks critical funding for health services like contraception, maternal health, and HIV prevention and treatment for any organisation that refuses to sign it.

For over 30 years, the Mexico City Policy has played politics with women’s lives. But never to the extent that we see now.

We will not sign a policy that denies human rights and puts the lives of women at risk. We are committed to protect all those who come through our clinic doors.

This goes beyond the USD $100m that we lose. It will have adevastating impact. Millions will be denied lifesaving healthcare they need. The policy will hit hardest, the women living at the margins of society – the poorest, the most remote and those under 25.   

We care about the lives that will be affected and how this could ripples through generations.  It is a cynical attempt to silence the choice and voice of the world’s poorest.  

As a champion for them and people everywhere, we will not be held back.

In all this sadness, there is hope. Protests and marches of recent weeks show how much people care. We have seen so much solidarity and deep personal commitment both inside and outside the United States.

In the last week, we have seen governments step-up their commitment to this cause, like the She Decides initiative from the Dutch. I am proud to see European governments unambiguously taking the side of poor and vulnerable women. 

This is a work in progress to bridge the funding and service gaps the Global Gag Rule creates. We still have a long way to go.

The policy that we see before us threatens wider global public health efforts. It is short-sighted and dangerous. It threatens years of IPPF gains to advance the health and well-being of communities and undercuts health care access for millions worldwide.

We will remain strong. We stand united as a Federation of Member Associations working in 171 countries. We cannot—and will not—deny life-saving services to the world’s poorest, wherever they are and for as long as they need it.