Mike Pompeo, the head of the State Department under Trump, just expanded the global gag rule yet again.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is bragging about how a new policy of his will deny health care to even more poor people around the world.
Calling it "decent" and "right" and saying he's "proud to serve in an administration that protects the least amongst us," Pompeo announced another expansion of the "global gag rule" — a rabidly anti-choice measure that Trump reinstated right after he took office.
That rule bars any American aid from going to international healthcare organizations that provide abortions or even discuss them. Trump drastically ratcheted it up well past previous Republican administrations, expanding it to cover $8.8 billion in State Department, USAID, and Department of Defense funding. Previously, the rule had only applied to $600 million of family planning dollars.
That expansion meant that organizations that received any U.S. aid for things like Zika relief or malaria mitigation would lose all U.S. assistance if they even mention abortion. Rather than seeing this as a problem, evangelicals called it a "victory" and bragged about how many international health programs it would affect.
Now Pompeo has expanded it even further to cover foreign organizations that give money to other organizations that provide — or just talk about — abortions. With that, the administration is now cutting aid to the Organization of American States because it works with a group that does what Pompeo calls "abortion-related advocacy." The OAS isn't even remotely a health care organization. It's a group that works on promoting democracy in places like Venezuela.
Now the global gag rule can apply to seemingly any organization if the administration feels that organization is connected, in however small a fashion, to another group that simply talks about abortion.
And these expansions are going to kill people.
Groups that provide health care in developing countries can refuse to sign the anti-choice pledge demanded by the administration, but then they have to find a way to replace that aid. That's what some of the biggest international healthcare providers are doing right now.
One group in Uganda couldn't comply with the global gag rule, and that meant they had to end a project that had reached 14,000 girls and young women and provided them with information on HIV. Another HIV clinic run by a group that works in Zimbabwe and Mozambique was able to test nearly 6,000 girls and women for HIV from July to September 2017. After the expansion of the gag rule caused them to lose funding, they tested only 671 people from October to December 2017.
Additionally, far from decreasing abortions, a more extensive global gag rule will result in an increase in illegal abortions, which are far more dangerous. The International Planned Parenthood Foundation, which provides maternal health care in impoverished countries, will lose about $100 million in funding. They estimate this will lead to "20,000 maternal deaths, 4.8 million unintended pregnancies, and 1.7 million unsafe abortions.
In his quest to please religious zealots, of which he is one, Pompeo is willing to hurt poor people — especially women and girls — around the world. It's an all-too-familiar story with this administration.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.