In many parts of the world, the right to abortion is increasing, but US aid policy is giving new impetus to abortion critics. Photo: Monica Melton / Unsplash


Forward and backward for the right to abortion in the world

The right to abortion has become stronger in many low-income countries, according to Pia Engstrand at the development agency Sida. At the same time, abortion opponents have been given new impetus by the United States' anti-abortion aid policy.

The final sprint of the Christian Democrats' election campaign during the EU election was largely characterized by Lars Adaktusson voting against abortion issues 22 times during his five years in the European Parliament. Something that became a scandal in Sweden. At the same time, the right to abortion is not a matter of course here either.

- We must not forget that during the EU debate we had a discussion about the right to abortion in Sweden, between parties. We must be careful to say that abortion resistance only exists elsewhere, it also exists here in Sweden, says Gunilla Backman, program manager for health at Sida. 

The right to free and safe abortion is being challenged in many parts of the world. The US abortion resistance has particularly great consequences. A recurring element in US policy is the Mexico City Policy (or Global Gag Rule), which means that no development support from the US may go to organizations that advocate or in any way discuss the right to abortion. When Donald Trump reintroduced the policy in January 2017, it was in an even stricter version. At present, the Global Gag Rule covers all of the United States' global health support. 

- The United States now withdraws all its money to organizations that in some way inform about abortion or provide support for abortion care. Many of these organizations work very broadly with health care, so the global gag rule has huge consequences at country level, explains Pia Engstrand at Sida. 

Mexico City Policy is popularly called the Global Gag Rule because the organizations that even mention abortion risk losing funding from the United States. Organizations must also be able to document that they have not been to meetings and discussed the abortion issue. 

- This means enormous monitoring of the partner organizations. Sweden has a very important role to play, now that the United States has withdrawn its support, we must go in and cover up, says Pia Engstrand. 

She believes that Sweden defends sexual and reproductive rights both politically in the UN and through development aid.

- In the UN, countries such as Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have long fought against the right to abortion. They have been given renewed power by the United States and can now sit back, says Pia Engstrand.

Access to safe abortion is affected by several factors, describes Pia Engstrand. Legislation and medical guidelines as well as personal attitudes. Studies show that abortion rates did not decrease during the time when George W Bush introduced the Global Gag Rule, but that they became more uncertain than before.

- Among some political leaders, it has become the norm to oppose gender equality. Opposing abortion becomes like a springboard to other issues, says Pia Engstrand.

Mexico City Policy (Global Gag Rule)

Mexico City Policy was first introduced by Ronald Reagan in 1984 and has been reintroduced by every Republican president since then. Mexico City Policy means that no US development aid may be given to organizations that advocate abortion. In folklore, the policy is called the Global Gag Rule.

Is there something in the text that is not correct? Contact us at

Share this: