On January 23rd, 2017, U.S president Donald Trump issued Presidential Memorandum reinstating the Mexico City Policy popularly referred to as the Global Gag Rule within Civil Society Organizations due to its restrictive nature on health services and advocacy particularly on Sexual Reproductive Rights for women and marginalized groups in societies that receive U.S. funding. Trump`s administration renamed the policy as Protecting life in Global Health Assistance; as the name suggests, the policy now applies to all U.S. global health assistance amounting to nearly USD $9 billion and includes funding for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, maternal and child health, family planning and reproductive health, nutrition, global health security, zika virus, and WASH at household and community levels. Non- U.S. NGOS who receive any global funding have 2 choices; Accept U.S. global health assistance and restrict their activities on abortion or refuse U.S. global health assistance and find other funding.
This policy has instilled fear on NGOS and caused them to self – censor and not ask questions about the policy because they are afraid of potentially losing U.S. funding. This has led to them over restricting their activities to be sure they are in compliance with the policy. Other NGOs have discontinued partnerships, stopped participating in coalitions, and no longer apply for some grants and unnecessarily stopped certain activities, which causes irreparable damage to their beneficiaries and civil society partnerships. President Trump’s policy masquerades under the guise of preserving life, but it endangers life. Restricting abortion information and access threatens and endangers women’s lives and families at large socially and economically.
Impacts of the Global Gag Rule have resulted into shut down in clinics, reduced access to contraceptives and HIV services, limited rural communities` access to health care, disrupted referral networks, and weakened civil society partnerships, coalitions, advocacy efforts around unsafe abortion. These impacts will worsen over time as more NGOs lose funding and are forced to restrict activities. Trump’s policy does not protect life. Women’s sexual reproductive health rights and health rights of marginalized persons are important and should matter.
Together we can make a difference by standing tall against the GGR and rising above its inhuman nature. It is important to monitor, document and report changes in relationships with sub-grantees and organizations affected by declining the funds or refusing to comply to continue mitigating or countering the impact of GGR to feed into data to push for the repealing of the unjust policy targeted at dehumanizing marginalized groups in society globally. This should be a wakeup call for the Ugandan government to prioritize Heath funding in the national budgets rather than largely depend on foreign aid that often comes with strings attached to the disadvantage of its citizens.
By Amuron Dorothy