Intended for healthcare professionals


Erosion of women’s reproductive rights in the United States

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 05 July 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l4444

Linked Opinion

Alabama abortion ban—part of new efforts to restrict abortion in the United States

  1. Abigail R A Aiken, assistant professor
  1. LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA
  1. araa2{at}

An already deteriorating situation is now critical for many vulnerable groups

When President Trump took office in 2017, one of his first actions was to reinstate the global gag rule, a policy that bans US foreign aid for family planning being awarded to organisations that provide, make referrals to, or advocate for safe abortion services.1 The global gag rule typically oscillates according to the administration in power: Democrats revoke it and Republicans reinstate it. But Trump went a step further by extending the rule to restrict not only family planning funding but any form of global health funding.2 This action sent a clear signal on what was to come for reproductive rights in the US and beyond.

This signal was amplified by the appointment of two socially conservative justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, to the Supreme Court. Empowered by a tipping of the balance of the court away from upholding abortion rights, state legislatures around the country have since enacted a spate of extreme abortion restrictions. In March 2019, Mississippi enacted legislation that would prohibit abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, before …

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