Global Justice Center Applauds Senate Committee Vote Against Global Gag Rule

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - September 8, 2017

[NEW YORK, NY] – On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations Committee moved to reinstate funding for the United Nations Population Fund and overturn Trump’s reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire proposed an amendment to the 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill that would overturn Trump’s expanded version of the Gag Rule, reinstate US contributions to UNFPA and limit the power of any future president to reinstate the Gag Rule. The amendment was approved with the votes of two female republicans, Senator Collins from Maine and Senator Murkowski from Alaska, but still needs to pass the full senate to become law.

U.S. Continues to Prioritize Anti-Abortion Policy Over The Wellbeing of Women

By Marie Wilken

The United States recently rejected a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on violence against women because it contained language calling for access to abortion in countries where it is legal. This is yet another example of the Trump administration using international aid and laws to limit access to abortion around the world. Like the Global Gag Rule, this rejection ignores that in addition to infringing on reproductive rights, these actions have many negative ramifications that are unrelated to abortion.

After a resolution aimed at eliminating violence and discrimination against women, introduced by Canada, was adopted by consensus, the United States dissociated from the consensus because of a sentence about abortion.  While abortion was not a primary focus of the resolution, it stated that all women should have access to “comprehensive sexual and health-care services” including “safe abortion where such services are permitted by national law.” U.S. First Secretary to the U.N. in Geneva Jason Mack delivered a statement saying that the U.S. agrees with the “spirit” of the resolution but cannot endorse the paragraph on reproductive services because the U.S. does “not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, nor do we support abortion in our reproductive health assistance.”

This is not a singular action; its motivations and effects parallel other Trump administration policies. Congress’s new health care bill defunds Planned Parenthood—a policy that, though driven by anti-abortion sentiment, will have a much broader impact on women’s health care. This year President Trump reinstated and greatly expanded the Global Gag Rule. The administration refuses to fund international aid even loosely related to abortion, and its rejection of the UN resolution suggests it is adopting a similar approach toward international law. Because of the Gag Rule, organizations are afraid to even reference abortion out of fear of losing their U.S. funding. There is now fear that the same chilling effect to mentions of abortion and other reproductive rights will spread to international law. The Global Gag Rule, health care bill, and rejection of the UN resolution not only violate women’s reproductive rights, but all also deny women unrelated services and protections.

The United States’ resistance to international reproductive rights is dangerous. By denying women around the world safe and accessible abortion, it risks the lives of women and girls. Approximately 830 women die from preventable pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes per day. U.S. policy forces some of the world’s poorest women to choose between giving birth to a child they cannot afford to care for and seeking an unsafe abortion. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 225 million women in developing countries want to prevent pregnancy but are not using contraception, mostly due to the limited reproductive health services available.  The administration’s policies are also dangerous because of the message they send the international community about abortion and U.S. ideals. Abortion is a reproductive right, and reproductive rights are an essential aspect of women’s rights—but Mack’s statement separated abortion from other rights and reproductive health services and demonized it. He wielded United States influence over international norms to push them backwards, away from progress toward equal protection of rights.

Because of one sentence on abortion, the United States obstructed the entire resolution. In addition to attacking women’s reproductive rights, the U.S. missed its opportunity to show commitment to improving the lives women through preventing violence and eliminating discrimination. By doing so, the Trump administration reaffirmed its willingness to sacrifice women’s rights, health care, and even lives.

Canada’s New Foreign Aid Policy Recognizes the Ripple Effect of Women’s Rights

By Marie Wilken

On Friday, Canada’s Ministry of International Development released its Feminist International Assistance Policy, which refocuses Canada’s foreign aid on combatting gender inequality. Its unprecedented focus on gender sends a clear message about Canada’s dedication to women’s rights, and the policy will have a broader impact. The policy is an acknowledgement of the effect women’s rights have on poverty reduction, peace-building, and other humanitarian goals. While not the first country to create gender-based foreign aid policies, Canada provides a good example for and sharp contrast to countries like the United States, which—far from building foreign aid policy around feminist principles—has withdrawn funding from international women’s organizations through its Global Gag Rule.

With its new policy, 15% of Canadian foreign aid will be used for gender equality programs within five years, compared to the 2% dedicated to gender equality programs during 2015-2016. It requires all government projects to integrate a women’s empowerment and gender equality component, and existing programs and partners must involve local women in the decision-making and implementation of projects. As part of its international assistance policy, Canada announced the Women’s Voice and Leadership Program. The program will allocate $113 million (USD) over five years to support local women’s organizations in developing countries that are working to advance the rights of women and girls. These measures will make Canada the single largest contributor of bilateral funding to women’s rights organizations. (These policies have drawn some criticism, however, because they do not allocate new money to international aid and instead reallocate existing funds.)

Canada clearly considered the ripple effect of gender equality when forming their foreign assistance policy. Their press release highlights their motivation: “Canada believes that society is more prosperous, peaceful, secure and united when women’s rights are respected and women are valued and empowered in their communities.” And the research supports this. Many have acknowledged that investing in women and girls brings positive socioeconomic effects. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) found a strong and broad correlation between gender equality and human development. A UN Women report proved that gender equality programming amplified the effects of humanitarian action, improved access to and outcomes in education, increased access to food security, and more. Similarly, a University of Connecticut Economic & Social Rights Empowerment Initiative discovered a correlation between gender equality and economic and social rights fulfillment.

This policy builds on Canada’s previous commitments to international women’s rights. Canada promised $14.9 million (USD) to family planning services at the She Decides Conference in Brussels this year, and in response to the U.S. Global Gag Rule, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put $483 million (USD) toward reproductive health rights and services. Other countries have adopted similar measures: the Netherlands created a large fund for women’s rights in 2008, and a couple years ago, Sweden applied a feminist approach to its entire foreign policy agenda.

Not all countries, however, have followed suit. Canada’s initiative starkly contrasts with the United States’ recent policies. While Canada has reinforced its commitment to reproductive rights and increased its funding for women’s groups abroad, the U.S. Global Gag Rule has restricted its aid to women’s groups by withholding funding from projects that provide abortion information or services.

Canada’s policy is exemplary not only because of its expected positive impact but also because of its reframing of gender issues. With this shift in the way humanitarian aid is delivered, Canada shows that gender equality and women’s rights are not just “women’s issues” that benefit only women; they are critical socioeconomic and security factors that benefit all of society.

Photo credit: Development Canada

Women’s Rights and Right Wing Politics

In recent years, right-wing populism has been spreading across Europe and the United States. The US, France, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands have seen a surge in public support for right-wing parties. Ranging from fascist groups like Golden Dawn in Greece to parties attempting to soften their image to gain more followers like the Front National in France, rightist ideologies have squeezed their way into mainstream politics. What does this represent for women’s rights and reproductive rights? A challenge.

Typically, right-wing parties are politically conservative, support traditional women’s roles and family structures. Most do not speak out for gay rights or women’s rights and do not favor a progressive feminist agenda, which includes equal pay and supporting family planning organizations. Furthermore, right-wing leaders have also spoken out against access to abortion and reproductive rights. Sound familiar?

When it comes to human rights and women’s rights, the US, Canada and many European countries are leading the conversation and promoting activism. With the Trump Administration and prominent right-wing groups gaining more power and influence in Europe, this conversation may become severely limited. Many family planning organizations and health clinics rely on federal funding to remain open and provide health services. Organizations that also provide women with abortions are often targeted and threatened with the withdrawal of funding. Such actions and restrictions do not result in a decreased number of abortions, but result in harming women who need abortions and can only get them outside of a doctor’s office, often in a non-sterile environment with limited access to proper medical tools.

Two of the leading right-wing parties in Europe, both of which are led by women, are the Front National and Alternative for Germany. Both leaders, Marine Le Pen and Frauke Petry, during their campaigns and interviews have spoken out against access to abortion and gay rights. They have also promoted the return to traditional family values, where a nuclear family is the ideal. The Front National in France does not support abortion or progressive women’s rights. Alternative for Germany promotes similar ideas, as well as a strong anti-immigrant sentiment.  Similar ideas have found support in President Trump’s administration and across the United States. What is it exactly that these political party and leaders support? While Trump’s administration and President Trump himself claim to be great supporters of women and say they are supporters of paid maternity leave and maternity benefits, people argue that his claims are not reflected in the laws he passes and the bills he signs. Furthermore, Trump introduced the expanded Global Gag Rule that will cut funding to foreign family planning organizations that rely on US money. This includes many organizations in developing countries, where such organizations are the sole source of birth control and safe abortions.

Although social activism is bright and promising, with many joining women’s rights and human rights movements across the globe, it is important to make sure that these political shifts and the resulting sentiments do not become normalized in our societies. Whether it is through more organized protest, the work of human and women’s rights organizations or liberals running for office, unity and perseverance are more important than ever. 

Donald Trump picture courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Marine Le Pen picture courtesy of Antoine Bayet

Frauke Petry picture courtesy of Harald Bischoff

Global Justice Center at the Women's Strike

March News Update: Staying Focused

Over one month ago Donald Trump reinstated and expanded the Global Gag Rule. As organizations around the world wait for official guidelines on what the expansion means, GJC and other women's rights groups are already working hard to combat these deadly restrictions on women's healthcare.

Today, GJC participated in the She Decides Conference in Brussels. The conference brought together representatives from governments, civil society and women on the ground with the aim of joining forces to mitigate the impact of the decrease in US funding from Trump's Global Gag Rule.

Read the Full Newsletter

Global Justice Center at the Planned Parenthood Protest

President Trump Expands Gag Rule Far Beyond Reagan or Bush

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE— January 24 2017

[NEW YORK] –  Yesterday, Donald Trump re-instated the Global Gag Rule, as every Republican president since Ronald Reagan has done since taking office. Unlike his predecessors, Trump far expanded the reach of the Gag Rule.

GJC Statement on the Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE— January 22 2017

[NEW YORK] –  Today marks the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade, two days after the inauguration of Donald Trump, and one day after millions of women all over the world marched in support of women’s rights. Any moment now Mr. Trump is expected to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, which bars US foreign aid from going to any foreign organization that performs or provides information about abortions as a method of family planning.

Global Justice Center at the NYC Women's March

Global Justice Center at the Women's March in DC

GJC Statement on the Inauguration of Donald Trump

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE— January 20 2016

[NEW YORK] – Today, as Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, it is important to remember that no one—and no country—is above the law. Over the course of his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump has expressed his attitude on a range of issues, from abortion to immigration to torture, that are antithetical to the notion of human rights. Many of his proposed policies, if enacted, would put him or the US in violation of international law.