U.S. President Donald Trump made one of his first executive orders a clampdown on women’s rights as he reinstated Monday a global gag rule that bans U.S.-funded groups around the world from discussing abortion, a move that was harshly criticized by women's rights advocates.
The rule, which affects U.S. non-governmental organizations working abroad, is one that incoming presidents have used to signal their positions on abortion rights. It was created under U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
"Women's health and rights are now one of the first casualties of the Trump administration," Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity in Washington, told Reuters.
"The global gag rule has been associated with an increase in unsafe abortions and we expect that Trump's global gag rule will cost women their lives." Former President Barack Obama lifted the gag rule in 2009 when he took office.
Reinstatement of the gag rule, formally known as the Mexico City policy, comes just two days after millions of people joined the Women’s March in cities across the United States and around the world in a show of unity for women's rights, among them abortion access.
The controversial far-reaching gag rule affects groups which receive funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development, even if they use separate money for abortion services, counseling or referrals, advocates note.
"It is appalling to dictate to civil society groups and health care providers how they can spend their own money and force them to withhold from women critical information about and access to the full range of reproductive health care," Nancy Northup, president of the U.S.-based Center for Reproductive Rights, told Reuters.
Other blows are expected in the coming days to pro-environment agencies and policies. A leaked document from the Trump transition team showed that his administration may seek up to US$800 million in cuts from the Environmental Protection Agency, according to Axios media outlet.
The cuts would affect state and tribal assistance grants, climate programs and environmental programs and management, the website reported citing the leaked document. The administration may also seek changes to strict carbon dioxide rules for new and existing power plants.
Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer also confirmed Monday that the new U.S. administration will seek to remove any obstacles preventing the construction of the Dakota Access and the Keystone pipelines which were put in place by the Obama administration.