In the first week of his presidency, Donald Trump signed an executive order preventing nonprofits from receiving federal funding if they provide, refer or promote abortion procedures in countries outside the United States. Yesterday (March 26), he expanded the reach of that policy to not only cut funding to foreign nongovernmental organizations directly involved in abortions and abortion rights advocacy, but to other groups that provide or discuss abortions.

Also known as the “Mexico City policy” and the “Global Gag Rule,” this policy was first put into place by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, but was rescinded by Bill Clinton in 1993. Trump’s 2017 executive order reinsititued it. A 2017 report from the Guttmacher Institute found that half of the 1.65 billion women ages 15-44 worldwide “live in countries where the gag rule would impede otherwise legal abortion services.”

Yesterday, according to Rewire.News:

In his remarks, [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo said the administration was making “further refinements” on the global gag rule. “As before, we’ll continue to refuse to provide assistance to foreign [nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)] who perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning,” he said. “Now, as a result of my decision today, we’re also making clear we will refuse to provide assistance to foreign NGOs that give financial support to other foreign groups in the global abortion industry. We will enforce a strict prohibition on backdoor-funding schemes and end runs around our policy. American taxpayer dollars will not be used to underwrite abortions.”

Pompeo also said that he was “proud to serve in an administration that protects the least among us” and that the decision was “decent” and “right.”  

Reproductive rights activists strongly disagree with him. “Two years into the sweeping expansion of the global gag rule, there are countless examples around the world of patients losing access to health care, especially in places where maternal deaths, HIV rates and unmet need for contraception are unacceptably high,” Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen said in a statement. “Further expansion of the global gag rule will harm millions of people around the world and have consequences for generations to come.”

According to Rewire.Newssince the rule was reinstated in 2017, more women are seeking abortions in places where the policy has been enforced, because they have less access to contraceptives and other family planning support. Compounding the issue, lack of access to abortion can lead to an increase in women getting the procedure done in unsafe conditions with unlicensed providers. “Aid groups have said that the reduction of funding for primary health clinics has affected treatment for other widespread diseases like TB, malaria and HIV,” the website reports.

Heather Boonstra, director of public policy at the Guttmacher Institute said in a statement to press: “This ideologically driven policy undermines the very goals of U.S. foreign aid programs by harming the health of people in developing countries, violating medical ethics and trampling on democratic values.”

According to the Global Fund for Women, the rule most affects LGBTQI populations, as well as women who are migrants, disabled, Indigenous, pregnant or HIV-positive.