Wherever you live in the world, you know this to be true: there can be no progress, no justice and no hope for an end to AIDS without progress and justice for girls and women. And this holds true for all people and all "key populations" who are overburdened by the epidemic and underserved by the response, including LGBT individuals, people who use drugs, and those who are incarcerated.
Today we are writing about women. We are writing as the AVAC team to share with our allies, of all genders, that we will not cease fighting for bodily autonomy, for justice, for choice and voice for women and girls.
We are writing this now because progress and justice for women and girls came under attack this week by the new U.S. administration via the reinstatement and proposed expansion of the Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City policy.
The proposed expansion of the Gag Rule now applies to all U.S. global health funding. This has not been enacted yet. Yet. There are many questions about how the expansion might work. We are working to find answers and are tracking the issue closely, along with a growing coalition of partners who recently issued a joint statement. We will be posting a more detailed update and set of resources on AVAC.org in the coming week.
First created under U.S. President Ronald Reagan, and subsequently rescinded by every Democratic president and reinstated by every Republican president since then, the Global Gag Rule has historically prohibited foreign NGOs receiving U.S. foreign assistance for family planning from talking about, providing, referring or advocating for the legalization of abortion.
This past version of the Gag Rule affected roughly seven percent of U.S. foreign health dollars. And even then it had a destructive impact on women's bodies and lives. Clinics that provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services lost funding. They closed. A study in South Africa documented the impact: Without access to contraception, rates of unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion went up. The Kaiser Family Foundation has produced a great overview of the policy's history and how it has been applied in the past, and they plan to update it as more details become available.
In the meantime, we stand together. We situate women and girls' rights in the broader context of social, economic and health justice. We recognize and stand with the many groups coming under attack from this week's executive orders. We will stand strong and we will fight harder, smarter and without fear because we know that all of our lives depend on it.