January 28, 2021

Lee, Bera, Schakowsky and Shaheen Introduce Legislation to Permanently Repeal Harmful Global Gag Rule

Washington, D.C. — Today, Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) joined with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to introduce the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (Global HER) Act, bicameral legislation to permanently repeal the harmful Global Gag Rule.  
The Global Gag Rule prohibits foreign organizations from receiving U.S. global health assistance if they provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocate for the legalization of abortion in their country, even if these activities are supported solely with non-U.S. funds. 

Today, President Biden issued an Executive Order ordering a revocation of the Global Gag Rule. However, the Global HER Act is essential legislation to prevent a future president from reinstating the harmful policy.  

“The Global Gag Rule leaves behind a chilling effect every time the United States changes administrations, undercutting the longstanding goals of the policy,” said Rep. Lee. “This harmful policy interferes with doctor-patient relationships by restricting crucial information and health services for vulnerable communities around the world. We can no longer undermine the sustainability of global health programs and our pace of progress, so I’m proud to be co-leading this effort with my colleagues. I’m looking forward to advancing the Global HER Act in the House and Senate with an administration that understands the importance of this issue." 

“I want to applaud President Biden for taking the important step of issuing an Executive Order to repeal the Global Gag Rule, saving lives and protecting the health of women around the world,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “Access to comprehensive reproductive health services and information will not only reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, but also prevent injuries and death that result from unsafe abortions. Once again, the United States, the single largest funder of global health, is stepping up to prevent negative maternal health outcomes. I am proud to co-lead the Global HER Act to permanently repeal this harmful policy and ensure that future Administrations don’t bring it back.”

“I’m grateful President Biden rescinded the Global Gag Rule, which jeopardizes life-saving global health programs and makes it even harder for women and families in vulnerable populations to access critical reproductive health care. This policy also hinders our ability to fight against epidemics like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. The Trump Administration shamefully expanded this policy, leading to disastrous results for women and families across the world at a time when the global community was already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Bera, M.D. “Congress must act to ensure no future Administration can implement this harmful policy. I’m proud to join my colleagues in the House and Senate in reintroducing the Global HER Act to permanently end the Global Gag Rule and its attack on reproductive rights.”

“The Global Gag Rule compromised women’s health and well-being in some of our most vulnerable communities around the world. The impact of the last administration’s actions to implement and significantly expand this policy will take years to repair,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m very pleased by President Biden’s decision to rescind this policy and I’m eager to work with his administration to build on that effort in Congress, starting with legislation I’m introducing today – the Global HER Act. The Global HER Act is bipartisan bill to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule, ensuring that women’s access to important health services are not dependent on the person in the White House. And a permanent repeal is needed now more than ever. The Trump administration’s unprecedented and exponential expansion of the Global Gag Rule cannot be repeated. Frontline organizations need certainty on funding and services so they can best serve their patients. The life and health of a mother on the other side of the world shouldn’t be at the whim of a President’s partisan politics. It’s time to end the Global Gag Rule.”  

The Global Gag Rule originally was imposed by the Reagan administration at the 1984 UN International Conference on Population in Mexico City. It was rescinded in 1993 by the Clinton administration and then reinstated in 2001 by the Bush administration. The Obama administration rescinded the Global Gag Rule in January 2009, but the Trump administration put in place a new version of the policy, which extends the harm done to women around the world. Because of the Global Gag Rule, clinics are forced to close and women and communities lose access to contraception and many other vital basic health services, resulting in more unintended pregnancies and more unsafe abortions. 

Recent polling   by Hart found that 70% of Americans favor ending the Global Gag Rule. Over 60% of respondents expressed very major or fairly major concerns about the policy’s many consequences, including the danger of restricting health care amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic.  Over 160 diverse organizations representing domestic and global reproductive health and justice, human rights, public health, HIV/AIDS, LGBT, faith-based, environmental, maternal and child health, youth, development, academic, medical, and refugee organizations. 

This past year, Reps. Lee, Bera, and Schakowsky led 140 members of the House of Representatives in sending a letter to the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Departments of State and Health and Human Services expressing opposition to the Trump administration’s proposed effort to expand the Global Gag Rule and demanding answers on outstanding implementation questions. 

Congresswoman Lee serves as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, which has jurisdiction over nondefense international funding priorities. She also serves as co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus.