The global gag on abortion

During his first month in office – yes it has only been a month – Donald Trump has been signing executive orders left and right. From the Dakota Access Pipe Line and the wall on the border with Mexico to the infamous travel ban, there has been global outrage concerning his new legislation. However, there is one executive order that spans the crown on sheer stupidity and a prime example of white male privilege, in my opinion: the global gag rule. Also known as the Mexico City policy, signed by Trump on the 23th of January.

Some background information on this policy. First put into practice by Ronald Reagan in 1984, this policy prevents non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) that receive money from the United States to spend that money to “perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations”. Under democratic rule, it has been repealed, whilst under republican rule, it has been reinstated. Now with the United States back under republican control, the legislation pops back up again. However, Trump has managed to make it even worse. He has broadened the policy to include all global health organisations that receive funding from the U.S.

In total the United States spends more than $10 billion on global health and family planning ($9.5 billion on global health, $608 million on family planning). These NGOs and global health organisations would have to pledge to not discuss abortions, or they will lose their funding. This would lead to clinics around the world being shut down. Clinics that do not even necessarily provide abortions, but healthcare, or information on and the spreading of birth control would be shut down. An example of this is the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). This organisation works in 172 countries and has 65,000 clinics. They deliver “sexual and reproductive health services that let people make their own choices.” These clinics provide anything from first aid to health services to information about reproductive health, as well as birth control. The people who will be affected by the closing of these clinics are the poor, who don’t have access to hospitals or are simply not able to afford them.

The problem that the abortion gag creates is enormous. Banning organisations to provide information about abortions will not lead to a decrease of abortions. Instead, it will lead to more unsafe abortions. At the moment, the World Health Organisation estimates that every year, 21.6 million women have an unsafe abortion worldwide. This means that there are 59,178 unsafe abortions performed each day. Out of these 59,178 women, 128 die each day due to the complications that these unsafe abortions cause.

So the United States is pulling out. Luckily other countries have stepped up to fund the $600 million gap. Dutch minister for International development, Lilianne Ploumen founded SHE DECIDES on January 24th. It’s a global fundraising initiative, which will help women make a free and independent decision on whether or not they want children. Soon thereafter, the dutch government pledged to invest €10 million into the fund. The Belgian government also invested €10 million.  At this moment 17 other countries have pledged to support this.

The image of Trump signing the document went viral. Surrounded by men, he signs a document restricting women’s rights. It would not be the first time…  Let us hope that SHE DECIDES will go viral as well, so that women from all over the world still have access to safe and reliable information on something that will change their lives.

Annick Wijnstra, Class of 2017, is a literature and history major from the Netherlands.

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