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Students and politicians petition Jeff Flake to overturn 'global gag rule' on reproductive health NGOs

The reproductive and women’s rights group Fight4HER protested in front of Sen. Flake’s office on Friday


Costumed protesters hold signs urging Jeff Flake to overturn the global gag rule on Friday, July 20, 2018. 

A group of reproductive rights activists and state politicians gathered Friday in front of Senator Jeff Flake’s Phoenix office to demand that he vote ‘yes’ on an upcoming piece of legislation: the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act

The protest was staged by Fight4HER, an activist group formed just after President Trump’s 2016 inauguration. Their mission is to raise awareness and advocacy for the bill, which would overturn President Trump’s version of the Mexico City Policy, also known as the global gag rule. Also in attendance were State Sen. Juan Mendez (D) and State Rep. Athena Salman (D), who both represent Tempe as part of their districts. 

“I don’t believe that anyone should have a say over what I do with my body,” Lead Organizer Brittany MacPherson said, “and I don’t believe Donald Trump should have a say over what women halfway across the world do with their bodies.”

The policy being protested states that no foreign non-governmental organization that offers abortion services can receive U.S. funding. This means such organizations are barred from access to a designated $575 million fund for family planning and $8.8 billion fund for global health aid generally. 

Different versions of this policy have been adopted by Republican presidents since 1984, but the one approved by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last year is different from any that came before it, as reported by the Associated Press

The current administration’s version of the policy, now in effect for over a year-and-half, earned its name because of its expansion on previous versions. 

Currently, any NGO that publicly advocates for abortion or offers patients consultation on abortion as an option for family planning will have its U.S. funding revoked. This applies to organizations doing so in countries where abortion is legal. 

This is the first time a president has barred foreign NGOs from funding on the basis of public advocacy for abortion, rather than the actual practice of the procedure. 

Anti-abortion groups have praised the policy for ending what they saw as exporting abortion abroad by funding advocacy, which they say would lead to its wider practice. 

On the other hand, many pundits and international aid workers have described the policy’s expansion as devastating. This has led to the creation of organizations like Fight4HER that advocate for the passage of a law to overturn the administration’s policy. 

“We have Kyrsten Sinema in the House and Ruben Gallego as co-sponsors of the Global HER Act, which is what we’re advocating for,” interdisciplinary studies senior and Fight4HER Intern Joy Ivy said. “Hopefully Senator Flake steps up and takes the same stand.”

The protest was lively, with many of the activists repeating oft-used slogans. Just minutes after protesters started waving signs, a parade of about a dozen women dressed as characters from the web series “The Handmaid’s Tale” silently crossed Camelback Road on 22nd Street. 

Dressed in the show’s now-signature red robes and exaggerated white bonnets, the women stopped and turned to face Camelback Road, standing silently and looking downward while holding a large sign in support of Fight4HER.

The performance was a reference to the controversial show's dystopian theme, where after a second civil war, fertile women are subjected to a life of child-bearing and servitude to their male oppressors. The image made for a strong message to Sen. Flake regarding how many see Trump's gag rule and the effects it has on the place of women in society internationally. 

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