The Gag Rule and Why People Condemn It

By Victoria Robertson on January 29, 2017
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By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the Gag Rule reinstated by President Trump. However, most college students aren’t familiar with the rule’s history or what it actually entails.

It’s a sensitive topic and one that’s beyond controversial. Essentially, we’re not going to come to an agreement as a country on the topic. That being said, everyone is entitled to their opinions, so long as they are informed.

For those that aren’t sure why individuals are so strongly against this policy, here’s your chance to gain some insight. You don’t have to agree (and you likely won’t) but at least you’ll understand that the argument is necessarily anti-Trump (for those that genuinely care about the issue), but anti-Gag Rule. And, also to be clear, one does not have to be pro-choice to be anti-Gag Rule.

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For one thing, the policy is anti-abortion and surfaced in the Reagan-era. This is not the first time it has resurfaced, either. It was previously instated under George W. Bush and then again removed by Barack Obama.

So what is the Gag Rule?

Essentially, the rule forbids handing out federal money to foreign organizations that perform abortions or mention them (yes, it’s that strict) as an option to women.

So why implement it? There are likely several reasons. First and foremost is finance — it costs the U.S. money to federally support these organizations, so withdrawing funding will save the U.S. some money. The other reason, and the most controversial, is that it’s an anti-abortion policy meant to decrease the number of abortions.

However, this is controversial because it’s highly likely that the rule will actually do the opposite.

According to Jason Cone, executive director of MSF-USA (Doctors Without Borders):

“Research over the past decade has shown that policies that ban medical providers from educating women about abortion and their family planning options — including birth control and condoms — actually lead to more unwanted pregnancies, more unsafe abortions and death, and higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV.”

To be clear, the Gag Rule doesn’t ban abortions per se. But it does ban organizations from discussing the option with women (if they would like to continue receiving federal funding), which could, in turn, lead to unsafe results.

So for those students unclear, this is not an abortion law that prohibits such procedures. But in a way it does, as many facilities would have to shut down without federal funding, meaning they would need to cease abortion practices to remain open.

Another argument I’ve seen fairly often is that this isn’t a U.S. problem anyway because the Gag Rule applies to government money spent internationally, not specifically within the U.S. — so we shouldn’t care, right?

While it’s very easy to argue that because this rule doesn’t affect you, it’s not something we should be protesting or worrying about, ignorance is not bliss. So before you attack those peacefully protesting such a rule, realize that they are standing up for those that are unable to stand up for themselves. It’s an act of solidarity, not ignorance.

That being said, any protests crossing the line from peaceful to harmful and violent, including personal attacks on President Trump’s intelligence, etc. go too far. There’s a way to protest without hate speech and acts. That goes for both sides of the issue.

And those that claim this rule is actually a good thing, that pro-choice is harmful to society, aren’t considering all the facts, because it’s not simply an argument of pro-life or pro-choice; just because a law is in place doesn’t mean the outcome is going to be any different, or any better, for that matter.

According to Cone:

“No matter what the risk or barrier, women will continue to seek ways to end pregnancies and they will continue to needlessly die if safe abortion care is not accessible. The Trump Administration needs to face these facts and end policies that endanger the lives of women and girls.”

This is an argument heard time and time again, and whether you agree with the morality behind it or not, it’s true.

When you take away safe means of abortion, the same women that were willing to go in for the abortion (albeit, possibly less) are still going to find a way to have it. All this does is increase the danger of abortion.

And when federal funding for such organizations is pulled, it’s also important to consider what other services those organizations are providing that are now not receiving funding either.

According to Seema Jalan, executive director of the Universal Access Project, “By cutting off funding for family planning, there is actually an increase in unintended pregnancies which actually leads to an increase in abortion.”

Think about it: organizations that provide condoms and birth control, HIV screening, cancer screening etc., are now defunded because they also offer abortions. Essentially, individuals that rely on these organizations now have no access to condoms and birth control, HIV screening, cancer screening, etc.

And when people don’t have access to such necessary health services, the risk for all of the above issues increases. So it’s actually more likely that unwanted pregnancies will happen. It’s more likely HIV will spread. It’s more likely that cancer will go undiagnosed and untreated.

Pro-life or pro-choice — that’s a moral argument that no two people will ever agree on. But policies regarding either issue should be considered on more than just the surface because there’s always more than meets the eye.

There is no policy so simple as to prohibit abortion without also increasing the risk of medical problems outside of unwanted pregnancies for women.

So it’s time to stop thinking about abortion as its own entity because it isn’t. There’s more involved and therefore any policies against abortion should take such dangers into consideration as well.

Turning a blind eye, in this case, is simply going to do more harm than good.

Just some food for thought.

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Victoria is a dedicated writer who graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She currently writes freelance pieces for various sites and works in Marketing for Myndbee Inc., promoting their current mobile app, Picpal.

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