Standing firm against the global gag rule two years on

© Corrie Wingate for Frontline AIDS

We remain firmly opposed to the Mexico City Policy (known as the global gag rule) two years after its reinstatement by U.S. President Donald Trump. We stand in solidarity with affected communities, civil society, researchers, donors and governments in calling for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health rights, to achieve a future free from AIDS for everyone, everywhere.

The Alliance decided not to comply with the policy due to concerns that the global gag rule would undermine decades’ long efforts to integrate HIV and SRHR services, and in doing so, compromise access to all services, including for marginalised people such as sex workers.

Today, on the second anniversary of the global gag rule’s reinstatement, we are more committed than ever in our opposition to the policy. We continue to be a vocal champion of the She Decides movement, working to advance a bold agenda of sexual and reproductive health and rights that means all women and girls have control of their bodies and their lives.

Access to safe abortion, freedom from coerced abortion, and access to post abortion care are essential components of a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) agenda which we see as essential to ending AIDS. While the gag rule explicitly denies access to safe abortion with a few exceptions, it also jeopardises related life-saving services such as family planning, and post abortion care, through over-extension, misinterpretation and disruption to integrated services.

The global gag rule flies in the face of responding to people’s needs and, all too frequently, puts them at increased risk of harm.
“The global gag rule flies in the face of responding to people’s needs and, all too frequently, puts them at increased risk of harm. We at the Alliance stand with marginalised communities – such as sex workers – who are hit hardest by the imposition of such ill-conceived policies.” said Christine Stegling, executive director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

The global gag rule has brought the issue of safe abortion into sharp focus across the Alliance partnership. Our discussion paper, Ungagging Abortion: safe abortion in the context of HIV, which was launched at AIDS 2018, explores some of the linkages between HIV and safe abortion, including common drivers such as stigma and discrimination, gender based violence, and women’s and girls’ lack of choice and agency.

The Alliance also partnered with Global Health Solutions, She Decides, IPPF and others in the Our Bodies, Our Fight consortium in the lead-up to AIDS 2018 to co-host the first ever pre-conference event explicitly focusing on the linkages between HIV and safe abortion and bring cross-movement collaboration and advocacy. The event included a call to action: “Aligning for Action on Safe Abortion and HIV and AIDS, galvanizing joint advocacy between the HIV and safe abortion communities, including voicing our collective opposition to the global gag rule.”

The Alliance has been working with partners in Malawi and Cambodia to understand better the impact the gag rule is having on HIV programmes. In particular, we want to know how the policy will affect marginalised communities — most affected by HIV and AIDS.

Results from this study, undertaken in partnership with Watipa and supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), will be published in the coming weeks.

This article was written as the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, before we changed our name to Frontline AIDS.


Global Gag RuleSexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)SheDecides