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WASHINGTON — Today the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report confirming the unprecedented scale and devastating impact of the Trump-Pence Administration's global gag rule, which has been well-documented by Planned Parenthood Global and other organizations. The report identifies at least 54 projects that have lost funding as a result of the policy. These projects span a wide range of countries and global health issues, including family planning/reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, nutrition, and maternal and child health.  

The GAO report, issued at the request of a bicameral, bipartisan group of Congress members, follows a six-month review of the global gag rule conducted by the U.S. State Department, which was an incomplete and insufficient analysis. The State Department said they would conduct an additional review of the policy by December 2018, which has yet to be released and is over a year late.

Statement from Monica Kerrigan, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood Global: 

The Government Accountability Office report confirms what we already know: the global gag rule has been applied at an unprecedented scale, impacting a range of health services and weakening health systems. The policy has harmed health care access for people around the world, especially those who already face systemic barriers to care including women and girls, young people, LGBTQI people, and sex workers. As the U.S. grapples with its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we see how critical health systems are to ensuring health and promoting well-being. The global gag rule continues to have a devastating impact on already fragile health systems, leaving people at increased risk of mortality and morbidity. The global gag rule must be permanently repealed.

Since 2017, the global gag rule has prohibited foreign non-governmental organizations (including sub-partners) from receiving any 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. The Trump administration has twice expanded this harmful policy, first to apply to all global health assistance and again by extending the gag to any funds from any source that flow through a gagged organization.

Key takeaways from the Government Accountability Office report:

1. The topline numbers in the report confirm what we already knew — the global gag rule is harming the work of hundreds of organizations in countries around the world.

  • Previous research from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicated that over 1,200 NGOs in over 60 countries would be impacted by this policy. The GAO documents over $12 billion of gagged funds applied to over 1,300 global health grants.

  • The report identifies at least 54 instances (7 prime recipients and 47 sub-recipients) where projects have lost funding as a result of the global gag rule. These projects span a wide range of countries and global health issues, including family planning/reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, nutrition, and maternal and child health. The GAO did not look at agencies’ efforts to reprogram the funds associated with losing these qualified partners.

2. The loss of funding for organizations who do not comply with the gag rule disrupts access to a wide range of health services, especially for communities who already face the greatest barriers to care.

  • The report cites a few examples of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who lost funding as a result of the policy, including: an NGO in Zimbabwe working on HIV prevention among adolescent girls and young women, an NGO in India working to provide innovative solutions to tuberculosis, an NGO in Ethiopia delivering HIV services to sex workers, and several other NGOs that were working across multiple countries to deliver family planning services integrated with other critical care, like maternal and child health and HIV services. 

3. The global gag rule limits access to abortion in countries, even where it is legal beyond the policy’s narrow exceptions of rape, incest, and life endangerment.

  • Previous analysis indicated more than half of the countries receiving global health assistance allow legal abortion in at least one case not permissible under the global gag rule.

  • The GAO report highlights the problem, wherein foreign NGOs receiving any U.S. global health assistance in countries where abortion is legal are prohibited both from providing a legal health care service and from providing information or counseling about legal abortion in their own countries.

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Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.

For more than 45 years, Planned Parenthood Global has supported access to sexual and reproductive health care and advocated for reproductive rights around the world. In partnership with more than 100 organizations across 9 focus countries in Africa and Latin America, we advance the health and rights of young people, women and families, with an emphasis on the most vulnerable and underserved. Last year, our partners provided over 1.8 million people with sexual and reproductive health information and services. Our unique sustainability model sets us apart, as we empower partners to stand on their own. We help grassroots organizations develop solid reproductive health programs, identify other sources of funding, build their communications and advocacy skills, and develop strategic plans. Planned Parenthood Global is the international arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.