In one of a number of sharp reversals from the Obama era, Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order banning international NGOs from providing abortion services or offering information about abortions if they receive US funding.
What Does This Mean?
The ‘Gag Rule’ will put thousands of healthcare professionals internationally in the worst position. They will have to decide wether or not to give patients family planning which would include abortions at the expense of a critical funding stream. The US is the largest donor to global health efforts, and without abortion services, this will put women and girls in danger.
Many international health advocates insist that their efforts are not comprehensive without abortion services. Unsafe abortions are a major cause of maternal mortality and kill tens of thousands of women every year.
I spoke to a doctor who will be left unnamed about the situation. They will be referred to as Dr. Smith.
“The last time we had the Gag Rule, was in Bush’s administration. It was terrible. Our hands where tied. We could not even suggest a place for them to go.”
They continued to tell me their stories of women and girls who they met with during the last time the gag rule was passed.
“She was 12, and was pregnant by her uncle. She was terrified and no clue as to what to do. I looked at this little girl and thought ‘my god she could be my daughter.’ I couldn’t stand the thought of her going through the pregnancy, but she would have to carry her uncles child at 12 years old and the child would be put into the system. There are two victims here.”
This truly would horrify a lot of people because of the age of the mother, but this is a reality. Dr. Smith has had to witness many girls and women do to extreme lengths to get an abortion and even try to induce Labor themselves causing harm to themselves.
What Are The Effects?
Public health advocates across the globe warned that a change in funding would have grave consequences. “It would be devastating,” said Amu Singh Sijapati, president of the Family Planning Association of Nepal, a member of IPPF. Her association has used the funds to train healthcare workers and open clinics in remote parts of the country that offer long-acting, reversible contraceptives to disadvantaged women.
The loss of funds would limit the reach of her organization, she said. “Funding cuts would mean we can’t support … the government of Nepal’s effort on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Additionally we would not be able to run community clinics or mobile health days or train healthcare workers. The impact also means we would lose essential medical staff like nurses, doctors and health experts.”
These are unsafe times for women and girls.