‘Global Gag Rule’: Curtailing Women's Reproductive Rights


The Global Gag Rule (GGR), originally known as the Mexico City Policy, is a US policy that limits the reproductive rights of women in many resource‐poor countries. In 2018, the US administration of President Donald Trump reinstated this policy, which was first issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and later annulled by two US presidents in the intervening years. The policy prohibits any nongovernmental organisation (NGO) outside the United States from providing women or couples with family planning information that includes access to abortion as a condition of receiving US funding. Although the policy is designed to reduce the rate of abortion in countries where NGOs have adopted it, studies have shown the opposite effect. The policy violates fundamental ethical principles as well as UN human rights treaties and action programmes.

Key Concepts

  • Results of implementing the Global Gag Rule (GGR) have been contrary to the purported goal of the policy.
  • The GGR harms vulnerable women in resource‐poor countries throughout the world.
  • The GGR violates key ethical principles.
  • The GGR violates United Nations Human Rights Declarations and Covenants.
  • More unsafe abortions have occurred in resource‐poor countries when the GGR has been in effect than when it has been annulled.
  • The administration of Donald Trump as president of the United States expanded an earlier version of the GGR.
  • The GGR affects programmes beyond family planning, such as those related to HIV/AIDS.

Keywords: Global Gag Rule; reproductive rights; abortion counselling and referral violation of human rights; violations of ethical principles; unsafe abortions; US funding in low‐ and middle‐income countries

Figure 1. Taken from ‘Women's March Sydney’. http://womensmarchsydney.com/globalgagrule/. Women's March Sydney.
Figure 2. The new ‘gag’ rule on abortion. https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Open‐Forum‐Nursescall‐on‐President‐Trump‐to‐13665197.php. Spencer Platt/Staff/Getty Images.
Figure 3. Taken from ‘Amnesty International USA’. https://medium.com/@amnestyusa/its‐long‐past‐time‐for‐congress‐to‐do‐something‐aboutviolence‐against‐women‐3ace8626350. Amnesty International USA.
Figure 4. United Nations Human Rights Logo. https://www.pngkey.com/detail/u2q8i1u2q8o0e6w7_the‐high‐commissioner‐heads‐the‐unswork‐on/. United Nations Human Rights Logo.


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Further Reading

Barot S (2018) The Roadmap to Safe Abortion Worldwide: Lessons from New Global Trends on Incidence, Legality and Safety. Guttmacher Policy Review, 2018, vol. 21. https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/article_files/gpr2101718.pdf.

Marie Stopes International. Safe Abortion and Post‐Abortion Care. https://www.mariestopes.org/what‐we‐do/our‐services/safe‐abortion‐and‐post‐abortion‐care/.

Medecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. Unsafe abortion: a Forgotten Emergency. International Women's Day, 8 March 2019. http://safeabortioncare.msf.org/en/.

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Macklin, Ruth(May 2020) ‘Global Gag Rule’: Curtailing Women's Reproductive Rights. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0028979]