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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: How the Global Gag Rule Stifles Free Speech

The Expanded Global Gag Rule cuts funding to foreign aid organizations that provide or refer women to abortions. A new article by researchers in the Global Health Justice and Governance program (GHJG) at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health argues that this policy is dampening debate, advocacy, and collaboration around abortion and other sexual and reproductive rights. A similar policy known as the Domestic Gag Rule is expected to go into effect by the end of April.

The article, in the Journal of International Affairs, reports that organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance have pulled out of reproductive health and rights meetings and coalitions.

“Organizations that comply with the rule often over-interpret its restrictions, whether because they lack information, receive misinformation about what is allowed, or they fear a major donor,” says first author Dr. Marta Schaaf, director of programming and operations for GHJG. “As a result, organizations that comply with the rule often decline to participate in meetings where abortion or even contraception is discussed.”

“We’re seeing a crackdown on free speech and organizing around the world, particularly on individuals and groups defending women’s human rights. The Expanded Global Gag Rule is feeding that trend,” says Mr. Terry McGovern, director of GHJG, chair of the Columbia Mailman Department of Population and Family Health, and co-author of the article.

Members of the program have been documenting the far-reaching harms of the Global Gag Rule. Dr. Schaaf and colleagues co-authored a draft policy statement of the American Public Health Association (APHA), open for comment by members, that argues that the rule is harmful to health and in violation of human rights.

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