Healthcare is a human right, and for decades the United States has been a global leader in fighting infectious diseases and strengthening the health systems of partner states around the world. Thanks to the strong bipartisan support from past administrations and Congress, American investments in global health programs have saved the lives of millions around the world.
One example of successful efforts to address global health is the Global Fund, a 21st century public-private partnership designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria as epidemics. Created in 2002, the Global Fund has helped achieve extraordinary progress in the fight against these deadly diseases. Similarly, President Bush established the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Through this initiative the United States has demonstrably strengthened the global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to new and existing global health risks.
While the United States has led the world in some areas of global health, it has also put up barriers to quality healthcare access. On January 23, 2017, President Donald Trump signed the “Presidential Memorandum Regarding the Mexico City Policy,” reinstating and expanding a policy that has been enacted by every Republican president since Ronald Reagan. The Mexico City Policy, also known as the global gag rule, bans all federal global health funding to foreign non-governmental groups that provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocate for the legalization of abortion in their country, even if these activities are funded with their own, non-US funds. U.S. laws already restrict federal foreign aid funds from paying for “abortion as a method of family planning.” The policy carries direct negative effects on women’s health care and opportunities. A 2011 Stanford University study found strong empirical evidence that the global gag rule, by undermining initiatives to reduce unwanted pregnancies, has likely increased abortion rates in the sub-Saharan African countries most exposed to the policy.
The Trump Administration has compromised America’s role as a global health leader by slashing funding for global health initiatives that once enjoyed strong, bipartisan support. President Trump’s FY2020 budget proposal cut global health programs at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department of State by 28 percent. His budget also included cuts for programs at the Department of Health and Human Services that support global health, including global health research and development and global health security.
In January 2019, Planned Parenthood released an assessment on the Global Gag Rule and the impact it was having on the global community. The report detailed three main negative themes as a result of this policy. The first was that this policy mostly affects small, community-based organizations “who don’t have a firm understanding of the policy but would close without U.S. government funding, and therefore are left without a real decision to make.” The second theme was that the policy organizations who are in compliance with the Gag Rule are over-complying for fear of losing funding. Additionally, they found that the “policy [was] being applied to funding streams outside of global health and over-implemented to prohibit participation even from family planning organizations.” The third theme was the “erosion of public discourse on issues related to sexual and reproductive health.” which “weakens the effectiveness of civil society more broadly, and impedes our global understanding of the reproductive health and rights around the world”.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
U.S leadership on global health is humanitarian, while also promoting stability, growing trading partners, and developing good will for the U.S., and combating China’s growing influence. That’s why we’re asking Congress to increase support for global health, including efforts to end global pandemics, and to end the harmful Mexico City Policy.
Call your congressional representatives today at (202) 224-3121 and ask Congress to reverse President Trump’s harmful actions. Here’s what to say:
Bipartisan support for the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative, each launched by President George W. Bush, and for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, has saved tens of millions of lives. Congress should continue to fully fund these efforts, which showcase the best of American values and global leadership.
Mexico City Policy blocks women from accessing reproductive healthcare and disrupts local health systems. The practical effect has been to reduce the availability of all health services for the world’s most vulnerable people. Members of Congress should sponsor S. 368 / H.R. 1055, the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act, and work to end this dangerous policy.
Healthcare is a human right, and Congress must reject President Trump’s dangerous cuts to global health programs. In today’s interconnected worlds, global pandemics pose a threat to America’s national security. Instead of reducing our support, the U.S. should work with partner countries around the world to encourage them to increase their investments in providing affordable access to healthcare.
The U.S. Government and Global Health - Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
A Guide to U.S. Investments in Global Health: Transforming Communities Worldwide - Global Health Council
The Case for U.S. Investment in the Global Fund and Global Health - Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
About Us (PEPFAR) - U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)