United States lawmakers – including many female legislators elected in the recent mid-term elections – are pushing back against President Donald Trump’s attacks on the reproductive rights of women outside the US.
Today, lawmakers re-introduced the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act (Global HER Act). The act, introduced in 2017, would bar the US from restricting funding to foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that provide counseling, referrals, or medical services that are legal in the US and where the NGOs operate – namely reproductive health services like abortion. It would also protect NGOs that lobby and advocate for abortion access from being punished by having US funding pulled.
For years, US foreign assistance has been subject to see-sawing policies that change when different political parties enter the White House. Since the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was president, every Republican president has issued an executive order that jeopardizes women’s reproductive rights around the world while every Democratic president has reversed it. This policy, commonly known as the “global gag rule” limits the activities of foreign NGOs that receive US foreign assistance. The gag rule prevents NGOs from using non-US money – so money received from other donors – to provide abortions, to counsel or refer patients to abortion services, or advocate for liberalization of abortion law. It’s an expansive restriction that goes beyond the existing law, which already bars NGOs from using US money to provide abortion services.
Unsurprisingly, Trump went even further on his very first day on the job by not only re-imposing the rule but dramatically expanding the range of funds to which it applies.
Lawmakers are saying enough of yo-yoing with women’s lives and their rights. The Global HER Act would eliminate by law the President’s discretion to regulate these entities – meaning no future president could impose the “global gag rule.” It looks likely to pass the House and in the Senate, as Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have joined the majority of female senators as two of the 45 original co-sponsors.
It is long past time to protect the rights of women around the world and empower women to make their own reproductive choices – regardless of who is in the US White House.