President-elect Joe Biden has committed to rescinding the Mexico City Policy, also known as the “global gag rule”, a policy that “currently bars the U.S. federal government from supporting important global health efforts — including for malaria and HIV/AIDS — in developing countries simply because the organizations providing that aid also offer information on abortion services”.
This move is a victory for reproductive rights and works to counteract some of the anti-abortion policies that President Trump passed in the last four years. In addition to reinstating the Mexico City Policy, Trump also weakened a mandate requiring employers to provide health insurance that includes contraception coverage and established the “domestic gag rule”, which prevents healthcare providers that receive federal family planning funds (under Title X) from referring or providing abortion care. In regard to this issue, Serra Sippel, the president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity, stated that “it’s important we don’t underestimate the harm that has been done.” Due to these policies, many global and domestic reproductive health organizations have had to choose between significant U.S. funding and being able to provide comprehensive healthcare.
These policies can be undone by executive action and orders, which allows Joe Biden to do so as soon as he enters office. His women’s media director for the campaign, Mariel Sáez, wrote that “President-elect Biden believes that health care is a right that should not be determined by one’s zip code or income”. Biden is also anticipated to repeal the Helms Amendment, which bans U.S. foreign aid from going to abortion care, in addition to restoring funding to the United Nations Population Fund. On a similar note, Zara Ahmed, associate director of federal issues at the Guttmacher Institute, said that “The Mexico City policy, the global gag rule, is the tip of the iceberg”. Legislation to repeal the gag rule permanently (the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act) entered Congress in 2019 and could garner enough support to be passed under the Biden administration — thus cementing the right to an abortion and reproductive healthcare in legislation that cannot change every four to eight years.
Sources: The Biden Agenda for Women, Vox 11/16/20, The Guardian 11/10/20, Reuters 11/7/20