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Project May 3, 2021

Global Gag Rule: The Legacy of American Family Planning Funding Restrictions in Pakistan

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In January, President Joe Biden repealed the Mexico City Policy, or global gag rule, which bars non-governmental organizations abroad providing resources, referrals, or lobbying for abortions from receiving USAID funding. But the impacts of these Reagan-era restrictions, reimplemented by Donald Trump as the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, won't go away immediately, especially in countries like Pakistan that have historically relied heavily on American aid for family planning. The context in Pakistan is complicated: although abortions are legal in certain circumstances, there is still a high stigma around the operation. Some doctors choose not to perform abortions, and women uneducated about contraception have unsafe procedures as a form of family planning.

The success of family planning in Pakistan is crucial as its ballooning population threatens to create a demographic crisis. In the past decade, Pakistan has endeavored to address its rapid population growth by making reproductive healthcare and birth control widely accessible. But this goal has fallen flat, and back-alley abortions contribute to Pakistan's dangerously high maternal mortality rate.

Have American policies exacerbated these threats to women’s reproductive health in Pakistan? I'll explore in my reporting the extent to which funding restrictions hindered organizations providing family planning services, furthering a cycle of unsafe abortions and maternal death.

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