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Adopting Global HER Act Will Improve Reproductive Health


Policy decisions made in the USA can have far-reaching consequences globally, regionally and in countries like Kenya. Since 2010 and the enactment of the constitution of Kenya, maternal health projects have been on the rise, with increasing hope of finally acknowledging women and upholding their rights.

According to a study carried out by African Population and Research Center in 2012, an estimated 464,690 induced abortions occurred in Kenya in 2012, corresponding to an induced abortion rate of 48 abortions per 1000 women of reproductive age (15-49 years), and an induced abortion ratio of 30 abortions per 100 births in 2012.

Every time there is a new administration in U.S, there is always that critical decision on whether or not to adopt the Mexico City Policy. First announced in Mexico City in 1984 by President Reagan’s administration, the policy requires all nongovernmental organizations operating abroad to refrain from performing, advising on or endorsing pregnancy by choice initiatives if they wish to receive federal funding.

The Global Gag Rule or Mexico City Policy stipulates that taxpayer dollars should not be used to pay for pregnancy by choice programs or related services (such as counseling, education or training).

The impact of the Policy is an increase in maternal deaths and morbidities aggravated by unsafe abortions. This move has denied thousands of the Kenyan women access to the comprehensive reproductive health services through the sh60 billion annual grant from the US government. Kenya has achieved moderate improvements in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) outcomes in recent decades, but significant gaps and inequities remain.

Unsafe abortion is among the leading causes of maternal death in Kenya,despite being largely preventable through increased use of modern contraceptives and the provision of safe abortion. While the Kenyan Constitution permits abortion to protect the health or life of a pregnant woman,the circumstances under which abortion is criminalized in the Kenyan penal code are less clearly specified.

In January 2017, the Trump Administration reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy or Global Gag Rule (GGR), renaming it “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance.” This policy requires non-US-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that receive US global health assistance to certify that they will not provide, refer for, counsel on, or advocate for abortion as a method of family planning. The GGR includes exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the woman; however, these are rarely applied in practice.


In Kenya, previous versions of the GGR resulted in damage to civil society and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) advocacy and reduced access to family planning (FP) services.By cutting off funding to organisations that offer a full spectrum of SRH services, including FP and safe abortion, the policy ended crucial programmes and shuttered facilities, leaving some poor and vulnerable communities with no SRH services.

The reinstatement of the Mexico Policy (by the Trump Administration) – better known as the Global Gag Rule – did have some devastating effects on the access to sexual and reproductive health rights by women and girls in Kenya.

In many rural and far-to-reach areas or informal settlements in Kenya, clinics run by not for profit organisations were the only source of information on sexual reproductive & health care provision. Many are no longer operating owing to the loss of funds because of the Mexico City policy; other clinics have had to cut back on their operations and lay off much needed staff so that they can reduce their spending.

It’s was a Win for Wanjiku as The Biden-Kamala administration did rescind the harmful global gag rule, which will restore funding for global health including contraception and Safe Abortion and other Reproductive health issues.

To further repeal the harmful global Gag rule, there is a vital need to adopt Global Her Act. Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act. This important bill would reverse and prohibit the global gag rule, thereby protecting the health and rights of women and girls around the world and helping to restore the United States as a global leader in this field.

The Global HER Act would reverse and permanently prohibit the global gag rule. Specifically, the law would allow entities receiving U.S. global assistance to provide safe abortion care using their own funds, in keeping with current U.S. laws and those of their respective countries. It would also support free speech and democratic engagement by lifting the prohibition on funding to entities that use their own funds to advocate on behalf of abortion rights.

Importantly, the Global HER Act would prevent future antiabortion administrations from easily re-imposing the global gag rule through executive order. This, in turn, would greatly reduce the likelihood that family planning aid and other global health assistance will continue to be treated as a political football by antiabortion ideologues—never mind the severe real-world consequences.


Alvin Mwangi

Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Youth Expert

Nairobi, Kenya

Twitter: @alvinmwangi254