Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (NY-17), led a bipartisan, bicameral reintroduction of the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act in both the Senate and House of Representatives. The legislation would permanently repeal the harmful Global Gag Rule. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined Shaheen to introduce the legislation in the Senate.
The Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, is an executive order that bans federal funds for foreign non-governmental organizations that use non-U.S. funds to provide abortion services or provide information about abortion as part of comprehensive family planning services. This forces clinics to choose between providing limited reproductive health services while accepting U.S. foreign aid or providing inclusive family planning and reproductive health care with a limited budget. The ill-conceived policy was rescinded by the Obama administration, only to be reinstated and expanded under the Trump administration. Days after taking office in 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that significantly expanded the policy from previous administrations by applying the ban to every program that falls under global health assistance at the Department of State, USAID and the Department of Health and Human Services.
"The Global Gag Rule and the President's decision to expand these restrictions have put the health and well-being of women and families around the world at risk, all for the sake of scoring political points," said Senator Shaheen. "This shameful and dangerous policy undercuts the efforts of international organizations that deliver comprehensive health care to our most vulnerable populations, including services that reduce maternal deaths and abortions, provide HIV treatment and combat Zika. Tying the hands of clinics that rely on U.S. dollars and limiting the care they can offer compromises the health and safety of women and families in these communities. There is bipartisan support for the Global HER Act in Congress to reverse this ill-conceived and disastrous policy, and I urge Senate and House Leadership to move expeditiously on this legislation."
"The Trump Administration's expanded Global Gag Rule has diminished the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance, silenced medical professionals, and threatened the health of the world's most vulnerable women at an unprecedented level," said Congresswoman Lowey. "We cannot maintain U.S. moral leadership, promote American interests, and build effective relationships abroad by handicapping our most capable international partners and jeopardizing life-saving programs. With the dire consequences of the Administration's expanded Global Gag Rule already being felt, permanent repeal of this vicious, anti-woman policy is more important now than ever before. Congress must act to advance the Global HER Act without delay."
"Our bipartisan legislation would allow U.S. global health assistance funding for foreign non-governmental organizations, using their own funds, to provide the full scope of family planning services to women in developing countries," said Senator Collins. "The global gag rule forces health care organizations to make a Hobson's choice: either give up desperately needed funds for family planning and a broad array of other important health care services, or renege on their responsibly to provide patients with full and accurate medical information. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that U.S. investments in global health are effective and are administered efficiently."
"By reversing this global gag rule, we're removing eligibility restrictions that could unintentionally restrict access to vital, often life-saving services," said Senator Murkowski. "This legislation will ensure U.S. foreign aid, which supports comprehensive, quality healthcare, is not hampered by discrimination or negative stigmas. We owe it to women around the world to make access to care a priority."
The Global HER Act would:
Ensure that eligible foreign NGOs can continue to operate U.S.-supported health programs abroad, particularly those that provide legal health services to women -- including counseling, referral, and legal abortion services -- with their own, non-U.S. funds;
Guarantee that foreign NGOs will not be forced to sacrifice their right to free speech in order to participate in U.S.-supported programs abroad;
Help expand access to health programs for women around the world to improve health and development outcomes for entire families, communities and developing countries.
A member of both the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, Senator Shaheen has been a fierce advocate for women and girls around the globe, including advocating on behalf of family planning and women's global health, spearheading efforts to end violence against women, authoring legislation to address barriers that girls around the world face in accessing education and securing women leadership roles in conflict resolution and peace negotiations.
The Global HER Act is also cosponsored by Senators Baldwin (D-WI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Coons (D-DE), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Hassan (D-NH), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), King (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Murray (D-WA), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Schatz (D-HI), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Udall (D-NM), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wyden (D-OR), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Casey (D-PA), Smith (D-MN), Sinema (D-AZ), Rosen (D-NV), Warner (D-VA), Heinrich (D-NM), Sanders (I-VT) and Bennet (D-CO).
Text of the Global HER Act can be read here.