Censorship Exported: The Impact of Trump’s Global Gag Rule on the Freedom of Speech and Association

Joint policy brief by the Global Justice Center and the Center for Health and Gender Equality (CHANGE)

In January 2017, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum reinstating the Global Gag Rule (GGR), an onerous policy that not only limits the provision of abortion services as a method of family planning but also restricts a wide variety of speech about abortion, including information, certain types of research, and advocacy. 

Two years on, the detrimental impacts of Trump’s GGR on sexual and reproductive health, HIV and AIDS services, and maternal mortality are well documented. But the GGR, in conjunction with other US abortion restrictions on foreign aid, also violates the fundamental rights of individuals and organizations to free speech and association. This policy brief looks at the documented impacts of the GGR that have been observed over the past two years against the human rights framework protecting the fundamental freedoms of speech and association. This is an edited version of GJC and CHANGE’s submission to the Human Rights Committee’s 125th Session for the preparation of the US List of Issues Prior to Reporting.

Read the Full Analysis

Global HER Act Organizational Endorsement

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, regulation, or policy, in determining eligibility for assistance authorized under part I of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.), foreign nongovernmental organizations—

(1) shall not be ineligible for such assistance solely on the basis of health or medical services, including counseling and referral services, provided by such organizations with non-United States Government funds if such services do not violate the laws of the country in which they are being provided and would not violate United States Federal law if provided in the United States; and

(2) shall not be subject to requirements relating to the use of non-United States Government funds for advocacy and lobbying activities other than those that apply to United States nongovernmental organizations receiving assistance under part I of such Act.

Download the Letter

Observations and Topics to be Included in the List of Issues United States of America: US Abortion Restrictions on Foreign Assistance

With this submission, the Global Justice Center (GJC) and the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) aim to provide guidance to the pre-session Working Group in its preparation of the list of issues to be examined during the Human Rights Committee’s (“Committee”) review of the United States (US). It specifically focuses on areas of concern with respect to the US’s violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) related to sexual and reproductive rights of individuals around the world.

Read the Full Submission

Senate 109 Coverage Ban

As organizations committed to advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice we believe each of us should be able to make decisions about abortion with dignity and respect, and without politicians interfering. We oppose S. 109, legislation to make the Hyde Amendment permanent and impose burdensome regulations designed to disincentivize insurers from providing abortion coverage. We know that the people disproportionately affected by policies like these are women of color, young people, and LGBTQ communities. We boldly envision a future where our families can thrive, which includes each of us making our own decisions about pregnancy and parenting, however much money we make or how we get our insurance. That means whether someone has private or government-funded health insurance, each of us should have coverage for a full range of pregnancy-related care, including abortion

S. 109 is drafted to achieve anti-abortion politicians’ goal of eliminating abortion coverage. First, this bill would make the Hyde amendment, an annual appropriations rider, permanent. S. 109 also penalizes individuals who seek private plans that cover abortion by denying consumer tax credits if they purchase plans that cover abortion care. This provision not only penalizes consumers, but would lead to insurers not offering plans that include abortion coverage. Additionally, small businesses would be denied tax credits if they decide to offer plans to their employees that include comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including abortion.

Download the Letter

Repro Community Opposition Letter to William Barr for Attorney General Sign-On Letter

Dear Chairman Graham and Ranking Member Feinstein,

We write on behalf of XX reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations in unified opposition to the nomination of William Barr for the role of the United States Attorney General.  Given his long and explicit record of opposition to reproductive rights and his alignment with extreme anti-abortion organizations, we strongly believe that former Attorney General Barr does not possess the ability to fairly oversee the Department of Justice and meet its obligations to protect reproductive health care rights and access without prejudice.

The mission of the Department of Justice (DOJ) is to “ensure fair and impartial administration of justice” as the chief enforcer of our nation’s laws.   With this great responsibility, the DOJ plays a critical role in our nation’s ongoing progress by defending and enforcing existing federal laws that reflect the values and principles of our country. Those landmark policies that DOJ is entrusted with defending include the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and the right to safe, legal abortion.  

Download the Letter

Sign-on Civil Society Letter to Sec. Pompeo Regarding Erasure of SRH

Dear Secretary Pompeo,

As U.S. organizations that promote health and human rights in U.S. foreign policy, we write to express strong opposition to any attempts by the United States Department of State to censor U.S. diplomats, or any mission staff or partners. Any such effort would jeopardize global health while undermining decades of global consensus and progress.

Download the Letter

Sign-on letter: FY20 International FP/ RH OMB Request

Dear Director Mulvaney:
The undersigned 52 organizations, committed to advancing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of people around the world, write to urge the President to request that the FY 2020 budget include $1.66 billion for international family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) programs, including $111 million for UNFPA, and reverse harmful policies that undermine these investments. Additional funds to support family planning and reproductive health programs ought to not come at the expense of other global health, development assistance, or humanitarian assistance programs.

We request $1.66 billion for Bilateral and Multilateral Family Planning and Reproductive Health Programs provided from the Global Health Programs account, the Economic Support Fund and from the International Organizations and Programs account, including $111 million for UNFPA.

Download the Letter

It's Time for Comprehensive Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Latin America

By: Sofia Garcia

In 1990, women in Argentina declared September 28th to be the Day for Legal Abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean. 28 years later, we now recognize it as International Safe Abortion Day, a day where women and men all over the world take to the streets to demand access to legal and safe abortions. This day is commemorated only two days after World Contraception Day on September 26th, a day intended to improve awareness of contraception and increase sexual education among young people. Coincidentally or not, this week in September crystallizes the intersectional nature of sexual and reproductive health and rights.  In regions like Latin America and the Caribbean where women are often left behind on legislation, days like International Safe Abortion Day and World Contraception Day serve as a crucial call for governments to recognize the importance of expanding access to sexual and reproductive health and rights in tandem.

In recent years, the staggering lack of access to abortion services in the region has resulted in a greater push for the decriminalization of abortion as well as the expansion of abortion services. Six countries in the region still do not allow abortions to be performed under any circumstance. The draconian laws that govern abortion in the region have not only stigmatized discourse about abortion and sexual and reproductive health--they have also created a greater push for legalized abortion. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that, as of 2017, more than 24 million women in Latin America and the Caribbean have an unmet need for modern contraception. This means that women in the region who are having sex are either doing so without any contraception, or are using traditional methods such as the “pull out” method, which are much less effective at preventing unintended pregnancies. This, naturally, leads to a high number of unintended pregnancies. The sheer lack of access to contraception or other sexual and reproductive health services has resulted in the highest numbers of unintended pregnancies in the world, about 14 million each year. This creates a great demand for abortion services, but many countries in the region still do not allow women to make decisions regarding their bodies without legal roadblocks, stigma, or discrimination.

Civil Society Sign-onLetter to Department of State re Human Rights Reports

Dear Secretary Pompeo,

As development of the 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices begins, we are writing to raise our deep concern about significant changes in last year’s report, including the deletion of the reproductive rights subsection and limited reporting on prevalence and incidence of gender- based violence. The undersigned 97 civil society organizations call on the State Department to include robust reporting on the incidence and prevalence of gender-based violence and to reverse the decision to delete the reproductive rights subsection and ensure it is not repeated in the 2018 reports

Download the Letter

Proposed "Domestic Gag Rule" Violates Americans’ Right to Free Speech

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – July 31, 2018

[NEW YORK, NY] – Today marks the deadline for public commentary on the changes to the Title X Family Planning Program proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If adopted, this domestic “gag rule” would ban health centers that receive Title X funding from providing their patients with information, referrals, access or support regarding abortion services. This rule is yet another attack by the Trump Administration on low-income and minority communities.

July News Update: GJC Fights Back Against Illegal Gag Rule

Today, the Global Justice Center submitted a formal comment to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar detailing the ways in which proposed restrictions on Title X deny women their fundamental human rights.

The proposed restrictions on Title X, announced by the White House in May, threaten to cut off funding to any health care provider that refers, provides, or even mentions abortion, which will lead to dire consequences, primarily for low-income women. Doctors will be forced to withhold information from women, even when directly asked for it, and women will need to seek information about their medical options elsewhere.

Read the Full Newsletter

May News Update: Help Us Fight Trump's Domestic Gag Rule

This week, the White House announced new restrictions on Title X that threaten to cut off funding to any health care provider that refers, provides, or even mentions abortion, leading to dire consequences, primarily for low-income women.

This dangerous policy will deny women their fundamental rights under the US Constitution and international human rights law.

After years of experience fighting against US abortion restrictions on foreign aid, the Global Justice Center has the expertise necessary to counter this new Domestic Gag Rule.

Read the Full Newsletter

May News Update: President Trump Puts Women at Risk With U.S. Abortion Gag Rule

The Trump administration proposed a domestic “Gag Rule” last night, banning health centers that provide, refer, support, or assist women in accessing abortion services from receiving Title X funding. This dangerous policy will deny women their fundamental human rights.

Like the Global Gag Rule reinstated by President Trump in 2017, the Domestic Gag Rule will coerce doctors into staying silent about the option to terminate a pregnancy (except in extremely limited circumstances) under threat of losing their government funding. In effect, the Domestic Gag Rule will prevent doctors from providing complete and accurate medical guidance to women. Even if a patient asks directly where she can obtain an abortion, a Title X provider will not be able to provide her with direct information in order to allow her to access her constitutionally protected right.

Read the Full Newsletter

Exporting Censorship: How U.S. Restrictions on Abortion Speech and Funding Violate International Law

Excerpt from Akila Radhakrishnan and Kristin Smith's blog post on IntLawGrrls

Although much attention is rightfully paid to the devastating impact of the reimposed Global Gag Rule, the Helms and Siljander Amendments (which have been permanently in place since the 1970s) often command less consideration. These restrictions are discussed separately here in order to illustrate their unique effects on freedoms of speech and association. However, Helms, Siljander and the Global Gag Rule all fall short of the ICCPR’s requirements and therefore violate freedoms of speech and association in complex ways, as examined in more detail in the Global Justice Center’s recent brief. This post explores how the Helms and Siljander Amendments fail to meet the ICCPR’s standards for lawful restrictions on the freedom of speech. Part Two will focus on the Global Gag Rule and its violation of the freedom of association.

The Helms Amendment (first enacted in 1973) provides that no U.S. funds “may be used to pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” In practice, U.S. government agencies have interpreted and applied the Helms Amendment as a total ban on abortion speech and services, despite the Leahy Amendment’s attempt to clarify that counseling on pregnancy options should not be considered “motivation.” U.S. application of Helms also does not include exceptions for rape, incest or life endangerment (unlike the Global Gag Rule), even though these exceptions are often covered by other legal protections (such as international humanitarian law).

Read the Full Post 

 

U.S. Restrictions on Free Speech & Association: How U.S. Anti-Abortion Policy Violates International Law

The Global Gag Rule Violates the Freedom of Speech

Since 1973 and the passage of Roe v. Wade, the United States has imposed restrictions on how foreign aid money is spent when it comes to abortion. These restrictions directly impact health care providers by reducing the services and information they can give. In fact, the restrictions are so far-reaching that they also limit the activities of experts and advocates when it comes to defending abortion rights. As a result, the U.S.—a country that prides itself on its democratic ideals—is continually violating the free speech and association rights of health care providers and advocates around the world.1

How U.S. Abortion Restrictions Violate International Law

  • Limit debate on issues of public interest and advocacy on human rights.
  • Harm the democratic process of other countries by preventing the free and open discussion of abortion as a right and barring the discussion of legislative changes to make the right effective.
  • Fail to provide sufficient clarity on which speech and activities remain allowed, creating a chilling effect on speech and activities that remain permissible. 
  • Do not pursue a legitimate aim such as national security or public health. The U.S. government itself does not see these restrictions as necessary to achieving a legitimate aim, as the Global Gag Rule is regularly removed and reinstated by U.S. presidents along party lines. In fact, the restrictions threaten women’s health by decreasing access  to necessary health care services and increasing unsafe abortion rates.2

GJC President (acting) Speaks at the Feminist Majority Foundation's National Young Feminist Leadership Conference

Saturday, March 17, 2018 at 10:00 am - 12:00pm

At Washington, DC

Sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation, the 2018 National Young Feminist Leadership Conference will provide young activists with the opportunity to network, grow their knowledge on pertinent domestic and global feminist issues, and fine-tune their organizing methodology.  Young feminist activists from around the nation come together to discuss issues including (but definitely not limited to) reproductive justice, eco-feminism, intersectionality and identity-based activism, campus organizing tactics and methods, violence against women, ballot measures and political organizing, social media and web-based activism, and global women’s rights and health. GJC President (acting) Akila Radhakrishnan will be speaking on the harm caused by US abortion restrictions. 

Download event information