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  • Savita Halappanavar was denied medical termination of her pregnancy in Dublin, Ireland, which lead to her death due to sepsis in 2012.

    Savita Halappanavar was denied medical termination of her pregnancy in Dublin, Ireland, which lead to her death due to sepsis in 2012. | Photo: Reuters

Published 27 March 2019
Opinion

The OAS be "addressing crises in Cuba, Nicaragua and in Venezuela, not advancing the pro-abortion cause," Pompeo said.

The Trump administration's decision to further expand the so-called "global gag rule" that bans foreign aid to groups providing or promoting abortion will "undermine the health and human rights of women and girls globally," rights groups said Tuesday in reaction to the government's statements announcing further actions. 

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The United States’ Trump administration Tuesday expanded its anti-abortion policies, cutting funding to the Organization of American States (OAS) and prohibiting the use of U.S. tax dollars to lobby for or against abortion rights.

Trump in 2017 reinstated a policy known as the "Mexico City Policy," requiring foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive U.S. family planning funds to certify they do not provide abortions or give abortion advice.

Studies have found the Mexico City Policy leads to increases in abortion rates because of cuts to contraception use and closures of health clinics. The rule also potentially raises the risk of maternal deaths and endangers children's health worldwide, researchers have said.

The rule has been called the Mexico City Policy since it was unveiled at a U.N. conference there in 1984 and became one of the centerpiece social policies of the conservative administration of Republican Former President Ronald Reagan.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Tuesday the United States will expand that policy, known by critics as the "global gag rule," by cracking down on NGOs that fund other groups that support abortion.

"We will refuse to provide assistance to foreign NGOs that give financial support to other foreign groups in the global abortion industry," Pompeo told reporters. "We will enforce a strict prohibition on backdoor funding schemes and end-runs around our policy. American taxpayer dollars will not be used to underwrite abortions."

Christian Lindmeier with the World Health Organization told teleSUR that while the organization cannot speculate on future implications "WHO works to ensure that all women and men can exercise their rights to sexual and reproductive health, and access the information and services they need."

Cutting funding to OAS's Human Rights branch

Pompeo also said the United States will cut funding to the OAS as a result of the expanded rule. "The institutions of OAS should be focused on addressing crises in Cuba, Nicaragua and in Venezuela, not advancing the pro-abortion cause," he said.

State Department Spokesman Robert Palladino said the United States would cut about US$210,000 in funding from the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous group that promotes human rights within the regional organization.

The Washington-based OAS did not comment.

Democrat lawmakers and abortion rights advocates denounced the expansion, as well as the so-called gag rule, which they have said, infringes on free speech.

Leana Wen, the head of Planned Parenthood, which President Donald Trump vowed in his presidential campaign to defund for providing abortions, described Pompeo's announcement as "unethical, dangerous and unacceptable."

Heather Boonstra, public policy director for the Guttmacher Institute, which researches and promotes family planning, called expansion part of a "crusade" against reproductive health.

Anti-abortion groups applauded the announcement. "Taxpayer dollars should not fund abortion here or abroad, and respecting the inherent dignity of the unborn person goes hand in glove with our country's foreign assistance and humanitarian work," March for Life's president, Jeanne Mancini, said in a statement.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Twitter, "There is no end to the depths of the Trump administration's cruelty. Millions of women... will be arbitrarily left without care due to this shameful decision."

Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-sponsor of a bipartisan bill to make the Mexico City Policy illegal, said she'd asked the administration for more information behind the decision. "This administration's obsession with attacking women’s reproductive health is egregious and dangerous," she said.

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