DUBAI – The administration of President Donald Trump reinstated and expanded the Global Gag Rule, targeting the pro-abortion movement.
This was one of the first, out of many controversial actions, of Trump after he won the elections in 2016.
Jonathan Rucks, senior director of Policy and Advocacy at PAI explains the dangers of the impact of this rule on foreign NGOs involved in reproductive health care across the globe.
He says the global gag rule prevents U.S. foreign aid from supporting international organizations that provide abortions.
It also prevents clinics to offer counsel to women on the possibility of abortion.
In some cases, some clinics were forced to close down because of the lack of funding.
Trump’s use of the rule goes deeper. It requires organisations working in reproductive care to certify they were not discussing abortion.
If they were advocating for the liberalisation of abortion, it means they will not get any U.S. funding.
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CARE
Reproductive health care has to do with the reproductive system involving birth control and abortion.
According to the authors of the book, ‘Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health: Disease Control Priorities, Third Edition (Volume 2)’, reproductive health care involves cultural and social norms.
In some countries or societies, it is taboo to consider birth control, let alone abortion.
The book cited above notes that health systems and individuals can take a number of actions to safeguard reproductive health.
Whether these actions are accepted by society or not, there is the notion that individuals are entitled to handle their health and their body on their own personal accord.
They have choices between family planning or unsafe sex that may lead to abortion.
Until the time Trump triggered the global gag rule, the United States was the biggest donor in reproductive health aid.
The U.S. used to account for 30% of funding in reproductive health at the international level. In 2017, this amounted to $490 million, down from $533 in 2016.
The world is sensitive to America’s budget rules.
This resulted in a large part of NGOs working in reproductive health around the world cancelling programs, lay off personnel, and spend resources to find alternative funding to continue their work.
The gag rule is aimed at ending abortion across the world. But it is also causing financial strains on NGOs that provide other forms of family planning.
They include contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS.
PAI ON GGR
During the event held at Dubai’s famous Intercontinental Hotel, a group of journalists were given a complete insight into the issues surrounding the GGR.
Rucks says PAI is championing policies that put women in charge of their reproductive health.
He says the GGR forces foreign NGOs to choose between receiving U.S. global health assistance and providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care.
The GGR forces providers to agree not to provide information, referrals or services for legal abortion.
They are also not allowed to “advocate for the legalization of abortion in their country with their own non-U.S. funds.”
This may result in an increase in maternal deaths, rural and youth programs cut back, family planning clinics closed, reduced services and loss of U.S.-donated contraceptives.
The policy now applies to nearly half of all U.S. bilateral economic assistance and family planning assistance.
The policy also puts a string on all the funding that “doesn’t come from the U.S.”
PAI says the policy denies funding to highly qualified service providers who are providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, services and supplies when they decide not to comply.
PAI says the effects of the rule is that referral networks were dismantled putting vulnerable groups are at risk.
NGOs saw a reduction in services and partnerships, with resources diverted to compliance. There is also a disruption of the contraceptive supply chain.
RAPE, INCEST NOT IMPACTED
However, rape, incest and life-threatening conditions are not impacted. The people in these conditions may still get support.
In many countries that receive U.S. aid funds, the law permits for abortion in such cases anyway.
There are, however, some groups that have rejected the idea of complying with U.S. requirements, putting women in danger.