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Trump's Expansion of Global Gag Rule Affects Health Funding

FILE - Women and children wait to be treated at a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) support clinic in Thaker, Southern Unity, South Sudan, March 20, 2017. The Trump administration's expansion of the global gag rule could disrupt hundreds of clinics in Africa and around the world that fight AIDs and malaria.

The Trump administration says it will expand a rule that pulls funding from public health agencies who provide or even discuss abortions.

The global gag rule, which Trump reinstated via executive order earlier in his term, bans any U.S. aid to international organizations that support the practice of abortion. This new policy could disrupt hundreds of clinics in Africa and around the world that fight AIDS and malaria.

The new rules issued by the State Department would impact $8.8 billion in global health funding, affecting the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a $600 million program that was put in place during the administration of President George W.Bush.

Public health organizations were quick to criticize the expansion of the rule Monday for fear it would severely affect women in countries where American aid groups are one of the few resources for women's and reproductive health services.

"Expanding the Global Gag Rule to include PEPFAR will reduce the standard of sexual and reproductive care provided to women living with and at risk for HIV and risks undoing years of progress on women's health in PEPFAR countries," said Asia Russell, executive director of Health GAP (Global Access Project).

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PAI, a global public health group, added the expansion would affect other aspects of public health as well.

"In addition to burdening organizations receiving family planning and reproductive health assistance, for the first time, providers implementing programs for maternal and child health, nutrition, HIV/AIDS (including PEPFAR), malaria, tuberculosis, infectious diseases, neglected tropical diseases, and water sanitation and hygiene will now be subject to oppressive Global Gag Rule restrictions," the organization wrote in a statement.

Trump's memorandum on the "Mexico City policy" reversed one aspect of U.S. foreign aid policy that had been in effect under former President Barack Obama. It changed the way U.S. financial assistance is distributed internationally.

The "Mexico City policy” dates to 1984, when then-President Ronald Reagan declared it at a population conference in the Mexican capital. Opponents call the U.S. prohibition on aid to groups that perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning a “global gag rule.”

U.S. foreign aid practices have switched back and forth several times since 1984; aid was barred to pro-abortion-rights groups whenever a Republican president was in power, then was reinstated when a Democrat controlled the White House.