A new report emerging from the Women Deliver 2019 Conference strings that President Donald Trump’s Gag Rule badly impact women’s quality of life especially on access to safe abortion.
Stakeholders at the Vancouver Canada Conference are discussing how the impact of US funding restrictions is affecting marginalised communities in four countries of Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, and South Africa that were studied.
Advocates, researchers and implementing partners dissected findings from the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC)’s report which strings Trump’s expanded Gag Rule Impact as well as a new evidence-gathering initiative by several partner organizations designed to increase access to safe abortion.
According to reports, since implementation began two years ago, IWHC and grantee partners in Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, and South Africa have conducted more than 170 interviews with individuals affected by Trump’s Gag Rule policy.
The interviews reveal the devastating impact of the policy in the four countries.
In the words of Françoise Girard, President IWHC, “This deadly policy violates the rights of patients and ties the hands of providers and after two years, of implementation, the impact is clear: The Global Gag Rule reduces access to contraceptives and abortion care, leading to unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and preventable deaths”, said Girard.
Girard also noted, “This deadly policy violates the rights of patients and ties the hands of providers after two years”.
The report showed that in Kenya, an organization that serves young women and sex workers was forced to stop providing abortion information and referrals; two of the organization’s clients died after resorting to unsafe methods to terminate their pregnancies.
In Nepal, which has a progressive abortion law, it has forced the early closure of a US-government supported project intended to increase access to contraceptives and other services in 11 remote districts.
In South Africa, it has meant that a national sexuality education curriculum under development currently excludes any mention of abortion, even though the right to abortion is protected by the country’s constitution.
In the words of Katja Iversen, President/CEO of Women Deliver, “The Global Gag Rule kills girls and women, plain and simple.
“We should be investing in girls and women, not investing in policies that threaten their lives.
“A woman’s ability to control her own body is foundational for her to reach her full potential. Expanding the reach of this harmful policy is wrong, dangerous, bad for gender equality, and bad for the world”, averred Iversen.
Revived by the Trump Administration in 2017, the Global Gag Rule, or Mexico City Policy, restricts US global funding to any organization that advocates on abortion issues, provides abortions or refers patients to abortion services.
Initially, it was limited to family planning programs, but the Trump’s Gag Rule was later expanded to apply to all $9 billion in US global health funding, including the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
In March of this year, the US State Department announced an additional expansion of the restrictions, stating that the US would reduce its contribution to the autonomous Organization of American States.
Alongside the launch of the new report, cross-partner coalition led by Marie Stopes International, Ipas, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Population Services International and the Safe Abortion Action Fund, launched Safe Access, the first digital platform of its kind, working to eliminate unsafe abortion by putting evidence-based guidance in the hands of front line practitioners and policy makers.
In a joint statement from the CEO of the partners, they noted, “Our aim is simple: to share evidence-based, best practice guidance for implementers and policy makers on quality safe abortion and post-abortion care programming.
As implementing organisations, we share our own lessons on what works, with the hope that those on the front line can use these learning to expand access to life-saving services”, state the partners
Some of the discussants on the report included, Country Director, Marie Stopes Uganda Carole Sekimpi,
Executive Director, Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health Jedidah Maina and Program Officer, Learning, Monitoring, and Evaluation, International Women’s Health Coalition Vanessa Rios.