Throughout my visits to clinics in Africa I have seen the work of Marie Stopes International in South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia as well as Zambia. They provide a full range of quality reproductive health services for women. I have always been impressed by the comprehensive care they provide. Now, their work will be hampered because of an imposed policy of the new administration.
Yesterday morning President Trump signed an executive order to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, or Mexico City Policy, that prevents international NGOs that accept USAID (taxpayer) money from advocating for the legalization of abortions, provide abortions, mention the word, or even refer women to health practionioners that provide safe, legal abortions.
The Global Gag Rule was instated during the Reagan admininstration in 1984 and since then there has been a virtual seesaw effect between Republican and Democratic administrations regarding whether the Rule is reinstated or revoked. According to the WHO, 78,000 women die every year from unsafe abortions. Under Obama’s eight year administration, that number was reportedly decreased by more than half. Now, that President Trump has signed this executive order reinstating the Global Gag Rule, the fear among the global health community is that that number will rapidly skyrocket again.
When women are not afforded a full range of reproductive health services the probability of pregnancy related deaths increases due to unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortions. And when funding is completely cut off from international NGOs that provide essential services to women, deaths are furthermore compounded.
The global health community has worked diligently to reduce the rate of maternal mortality in some of the world’s poorest countries. Without the funding from USAID some of the NGOs that operate clinics and have provided abortion information and referrals will have to shutter their doors. This will be the fact over the course of the next four to eight years or even more.
Large international NGOs such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and Marie Stopes International have pledged not to sign the Global Gag Rule. IPPF will lose $600 million in funding from USAID. Marie Stopes International estimates that the lack of their funding alone will result in an additional 21,700 maternal deaths and 2.1 million unsafe abortions.
Featured photo: United Nations