Evaluating the EU’s Response to the US Gag Rule
PE 621.927 9
In 2019, the US announced a further expansion of the previous Mexico City Policy (MCP), also referred
to as the Global Gag Rule (GAG/GGR), which blocks US aid funds fo r organizations or groups that
perform abortion services, provide information about sexual and reproductive health rights, and
advocate for abortion. According to this latest widening of the scope of the MCP, funds are also blocked
to organizations that merely support other organizations engaged in the provision of abortion services
or pro-abortion advocacy.
The promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights has been one priority of EU’s external
action in the last few decades. To this aim, the European Union (EU) has increasingly integrated gender
equality as a fundamental value in its external policy. In the context of the EU’s gender policy
framework, the EU has been unreservedly and progressively promoting a multi-dimensional agenda
for sexual and reproductive health and rights including both the ‘human development’ aspect and
‘rights’ dimensions. This commitment also manifested in taking up a leading role in negotiating the
2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development, which today also serves as a guideline for designing
and implementing EU external aid policies.
The present study seeks to contribute to a better comprehension of the impact of the expanded US
Gag Rules on EU’s external aid policies and actions and to evaluate the EU and the EU Member States’
responses to counter the effects of the reinstated US policy.
The study firstly presents an overview of the historical developments of the US MCP in order to fully
understand what the recent reinstatement of the policy really means and provides an analysis on its
impact on organizations, communities and individuals globally.
The study then turns to see how the European Union and its Member States have responded to this
very significant shift in US policy stance. In this regard the study provides an overall picture of existing
and proposed EU development and humanitarian programmes, guidelines and actions at EU-level,
related to violence against women in the world and sexual reproductive and heath rights. In this
context an analysis is made on EU development and humanitarian aid funds and the work of the foreign
family planning organisations benefiting from EU funding are restricted by the change in US policy.
A short evaluation is made of whether, by increasing financial support for foreign family planning
organisations, the EU can safeguard the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls
throughout the world. Lastly, the current state of the negotiations of the Multiannual Financial
Framework is looked into with a view to see how development and humanitarian aid is proposed to be
budgeted for prevention and response to gender based violence and the promotion of sexual
reproductive and health rights.
Shifting focus from EU institutions to Member States, the study li sts and assesses the development and
implementation of pledges from EU governments and other donors who pledged to mitigate the
effects of the US Global Gag Rule. The study also provides an update to w hat extend the commitment
was made by the participating EU Member States to support sexual and reproductive health and rights
in developing countries.
In light of recent regional and global developments, this study considers the challenges that the EU
faces in advancing its leading role in SRHR, regionally and globally. We draw attention on the rise of
conservative and right-wing populist views, which delegitimize the gender equality agenda in some
EU Member States. We argue firstly that such political movements, and more broadly the incorporation
of conservative views in domestic legal regimes might hinder progress towards promoting