It was a sunny afternoon as most days are in Ethiopia in April. I was taking an individual tour of a large hospital in the middle of Addis Ababa where I got to talk to doctors, nurses, and see waiting rooms and even patients who were recovering from care.
I distinctly remember the room of women who had recently had abortions or were awaiting one. The room was eerily silent despite the number of patients in the large recovery room with few windows and no air conditioning. Personal effects were on all of the beds: blankets, purses, food, extra clothes . Some of the women had female visitors, others did not. While the Ethiopian abortion law on the books is considered “semi-liberal” by African standards, there is some pushback on abortion services although in practice if a woman wants an abortion she can most likely get one. This is mostly to help decrease maternal mortality rates and to curb the rates of unsafe abortions.
As I concluded my tour, the last room I saw was where the abortions took place with all of its machines and lone hospital bed. At that moment I was glad that despite the law, these Ethiopian medical professionals along with the hospital’s policy allowed women to have a choice about their own bodies and reproductive rights.
During each changing presidential administration, the 1984-enacted Mexico City Policy or Global Gag Rule is either rescinded or re-imposed. Republicans don’t want taxpayer money to fund overseas abortions and Democrats believe it is a crucial component to our international global health aid. It’s essentially a flip-flop policy that is in during one administration and out the next as evidenced by Biden dropping Trump’s abortion gag order yesterday.
Two years ago the Global HER (Health Empowerment and Rights) Act (H.R. 1055 – 116th Congress) was introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), and 150 House and 45 Senate members who cosponsored the bill. The Gobal HER Act would effectively end the Global Gag Rule and prevent any future president from reinstating it. The ACT was reintroduced this week.
The Global HER Act summary states:
That foreign nongovernmental organizations shall not be ineligible for U.S. international development assistance under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 solely on the basis of health or medical services provided by such organizations with non-U.S. government funds if such services do not violate the laws of the country in which they are being provided and would not violate U.S. federal law if provided in the United States. Such organizations also shall not be subject to requirements relating to the use of non-U.S. government funds for advocacy and lobbying activities other than those that apply to U.S. nongovernmental organizations receiving such assistance under such Act.
Global Health and reproductive rights advocates are looking towards a Democrat-controlled House and Senate to pass the Global HER Act.
To take action and advocate for the Global Her Act with your senators and House of representative visit globalherproject.com.