Gag rule probably doesn't mean what you think it does. (Image Credit: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Yesterday, Donald J. Trump — hero to the kind of populists who had a hissy fit every time President Obama signed an executive order — signed a bunch of executive orders. The orders included things like hiring freezes at federal agencies and backing out of free trade agreements. None of them are new ideas or anything particularly radical or transformative. It’s just all boilerplate Republican stuff meant to hurt workers and make CEOs richer. Definitely not the sort of revolutionary policy-making that Trump promised.
It’s almost like folks elected a typical fat-cat Republican whose only distinguishing characteristic is a child-like lack of self-control on social media.
The least original executive order he signed had to do with reinstating something called the “global gag rule." Despite how it sounds, this has nothing to do with BDSM or deep-throating during oral sex, which is really too bad since kink and oral sex are hella fun. It’s also — thank GAWD — not an attempt to silence the media. No, the global gag rule is a rule that any government-funded U.S. social service agency operating abroad can’t have anything to do with abortion services, including talking about them in any way.
This policy has been around since Reagan was president. As we all remember, Reagan was the champion of supply-side economic policies that presume that if you make it, people will buy it, whether they need it or not. This is not especially true, as any Keynesian economist could tell you. Demand generally drives consumption, not supply. But the Reaganites were SO SURE that supply is king that they even started applying that principle to worldwide abortion policy. They thought that if we didn’t let patients know abortion was an option, they wouldn’t get abortions.
Which is just dumb. People don’t get abortions because abortions are available. They get them because they don’t want to remain pregnant. History has demonstrated that availability of safe abortion procedures doesn’t increase abortion rates, nor does lack of access to safe abortion diminish abortion rates. Banning abortion doesn’t end abortion. It just ends safe abortion.
Anyway, ever since the '80s, we’ve been going back and forth on whether or not foreign aid entities could talk about abortion. Reagan and H.W. Bush said no. Clinton said yes. W Bush said no. Obama said yes. Now Trump, who is just a copycat with no original ideas, is saying no.
This is maddening to those of us who think abortion is a legitimate option for people who don’t want to continue a pregnancy. Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about this policy-wise, at least until we get a Democratic president. The one thing we can do, if we have the means, is seek out health service agencies operating abroad and donate to them so they can decline federal funding, thus freeing them from the strings that are attached to such monies.
A Trump-ish government isn't going to do what’s best for ordinary people, folks. We are going to have to take care of each other.