Intended for healthcare professionals


Trumped again: reinstating the global gag rule

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 07 February 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j654
  1. Sarah Hawkes, professor of global public health1,
  2. Kent Buse, chief, strategic policy directions2
  1. 1University College London, UK
  2. 2UNAIDS, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to: S Hawkes s.hawkes{at}

This unilateral action must not be allowed to derail women’s right to sexual and reproductive health

There was nothing unexpected about President Trump’s reinstatement of the Mexico City policy (known as the global gag rule) in the first days of his presidency. Trump’s administration is the latest in a line of American presidencies that have played fast and loose with sexual and reproductive health and rights. After the 1973 historic Roe v Wade ruling upholding the rights of American women to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy,1 Senator Jesse Helms supported an amendment to the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act to ensure that no US funds could be used to pay for abortions “as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.”2

Variations on the Helms amendment have shuffled back and forth across the American legislature in the ensuing four decades, but the Mexico City policy, enacted under President Reagan in 1984, proved to be the most contentious because it restricted US funding to foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that provide voluntary abortion services, even …

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