As expected, Donald Trump has re-instated a US government policy known at the “Global Gag Rule.”
This is a restriction that bans NGOs from receiving funding from the American government if those NGOs provide abortion services, counsel patients that abortion is a family planning option, or advocate for the legalization of abortion in their countries. Even if the dollars used to do these things do not come the USA, the entire organization is nonetheless banned from receiving US funding. The stated purpose is to restrict abortions even though laws on the books since the 1970s prohibit the US from funding abortion services. The practical effect of this policy results in increased numbers of unwanted pregnancies, more abortions, and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS.
How do we know that the Global Gag Rule Leads to More Abortions?
The last time the policy was enacted was during the George W. Bush administration. A group of NGOs, lead by Population Action International, lead a study of the policy’s effects from 2002 to 2006 in some of the poorest countries on earth. This is what they found:
Between 2002 and 2006, the research teams made site visits to the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nepal, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. They found that in Kenya, for example, the gag rule led to the termination of critical activities run by the Family Planning Association of Kenya and Marie Stopes International (MSI) Kenya—the leading providers of health care to people living in poor and rural communities in the country. In addition, enforcement of the policy drastically curtailed community-based outreach activities and the flow and availability of contraceptive supplies. Government clinics, exempt from the gag rule, were never able to pick up the slack nor regain the trust of women turned away by the NGOs.
The NGO investigators found that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had to cut off shipments of contraceptives—already in short supply—to 16 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association, for example, had received 426,000 condoms from USAID over two years during the Clinton administration. Once the gag rule went back into effect, USAID had to end condom shipments to Lesotho entirely because the association was the only available conduit for condoms in that country. At that time, one in four women in Lesotho was infected with HIV.
But wait…it gets worse. From Jina Moore at BuzzFeed
[Marie Stopes International] estimates there will be an additional 2.2 million abortions globally each year — 2.1 million of which will be unsafe, Newman-Williams said.
“The death rate both from maternal mortality because of more pregnancies and from those seeking unsafe abortion is going to rise quite dramatically,” said Marjorie Newman-Williams, vice president and director of international operations for MSI.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that unsafe abortion causes 13% of maternal deaths globally.
“It’s going to be really easy for this president to send a tweet and dismiss the impact of things like the global gag rule … [or] funding cuts on women’s health, both domestically and internationally,” said Jonathan Rucks, advocacy director at PAI, a reproductive health organization in Washington, DC. “It’s really scary for me.”
Earlier research also suggests abortion rates will rise. A 20-country study by the Stanford University School of Medicine, published by the WHO in 2011, found that abortion rates actually went up 40% the last time the gag rule was in place, under President George W. Bush. In countries most heavily affected by the policy, contraceptive use dropped, and a woman’s odds of having an unsafe abortion were more than two times higher after the policy went into effect.
There you have it. We can very soon expect abortions and maternal deaths to rise dramatically in the coming years.