Melanie McDonagh

Trump is right to reinstate the ‘global gag rule’ on abortion

Trump is right to reinstate the 'global gag rule' on abortion
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It has, to be honest, been rather hard to keep up with the flow of executive orders, policy pronouncements and big name appointments from the new US president: they’ve been coming thick and fast. So it’s been tricky drawing up any sort of running audit of debits v credits, though some changes, like the appointment of Jared Kushner to preside over the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, are sufficiently surreal to make you wonder why the Women Against Trump brigade didn’t put it on their placards.

But there are pluses, depending on your point of view. And from where I’m at, Trump’s executive order reintroducing the 'global gag rule' – which sounds unhelpfully like a perverted circus turn - is one of them. This is the provision – I’m pretty sure it’s not the official title – banning US non-government organisations from offering abortion services or information about abortion if they receive US funding. Outfits like the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) are now saying that they won’t abide by the rule, so there, and so they’ll forfeit the $100 million it gets at present from the US taxpayer for their international work. Cue for a mass hissy fit on the part of US feminists: the inclusive movement which bans pro-lifers from their women’s marches…so, not inclusive at all.

The Trump move is consistent with the programme he advocated during his campaign; it’s not a measure slipped through when you weren’t looking. And it’s reasonable. The provision of family planning advice and contraception does not necessarily involve the provision of abortion services; indeed you’d have thought that if the family planning side of things was doing its job it would obviate the need for killing foetuses by preventing their conception in the first place. But the Planned Parenthood lobby is nothing if not absolute: you get the entire package or nothing at all. In which case, good riddance. But tough on those organisations which use its funds to train health workers in developing countries to give family planning advice or to set up mobile clinics in rural areas. I rather hope they’ll get funding from organisations which can distinguish between abortion and contraception. Catholic aid organisations seem to manage it, unofficially. 

As it happens, the measure doesn’t actually affect the provision of abortion from public funds; that’s already banned by the Helms amendment under federal law. Rather, it prevents NGOs from using private funding for abortion or to refer women to other abortion providers. The Trump move challenges, then, the whole notion that abortion is an unproblematic element of overseas aid, in there with clean water and malaria nets. It may not be every day I get to say this, but good for Trump.