Trump decision disastrous for women in Africa

Trump’s executive order to stop funding abortion services will negatively impact a whole range of family planning services for millions of women. “Quality sexual healthcare and family planning help prevent unwanted pregnancies. Trump undermines this. His decision will lead to more unsafe practices”, say Cordaid health experts Christina de Vries and Geertje van Mensvoort.

The ‘Global Gag Rule’ or Mexico City Policy – reinstated last week by Donald Trump – prohibits  foreign NGO’s that receive US funding from providing abortion services or offering information about it.

In practice the decision impacts a whole range of sexual health and family planning services. Services that are most needed by the most marginalized and poor women and girls, especially in Sub-Sahara Africa.

Best ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies

Cordaid’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health (SRHR) programs in countries like DR Congo, Burundi and the Central African Republic, expand and improve sexual health care and family planning services. Christina de Vries: “Informing young mothers, women, girls and boys about their sexual rights, and providing modern family planning services, including contraceptives, are the best ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortion. Women should not be driven to opt for abortion as a last resort, they should have access to all other options and accurate information long before that. Every woman has the right to take informed decisions. The Global Gag Rule is denying women just that.”

More maternal deaths

Geertje van Mensvoort: “Trump wishes to curb abortion, but his policy will actually do the opposite. Under the Bush administration the Global Gag Rule resulted in loss of sexual health services and contraceptive supplies in sub-Saharan Africa, leading to more unwanted pregnancies, more unsafe abortions, more maternal deaths.”

Trump wishes to curb abortion, but his policy will actually do the opposite.

Geertje van Mensvoort, Cordaid health expert

Aggravating a crisis

Trump’s policy will only aggravate an existing global crisis: every year there are 74 million unintended pregnancies in developing countries, leading to 36 million abortions, of which 21 million are unsafe, deeply traumatizing and often fatal for the mother. “Everybody involved in reproductive health and rights, but also in the fight against HIV/AIDS, is extremely concerned by the decision”, says Geertje van Mensvoort.

Cordaid’s current SRHR programs do not receive US funding. But indirectly we will feel the impact of the Global Gag Rule. Christina de Vries: “Some conservative governments will feel empowered by Trump to further curb modern family planning and sexual health services in their countries. Especially in countries where women face extreme poverty, hardship, lack of safety and abuse, it will make our work even more challenging than it already is. And all the more necessary.”

This decision will make our work even more challenging than it already is.

Christina de Vries, Cordaid health expert

Standing up for the most vulnerable

“We stand up for the most vulnerable”, De Vries continues. “They deserve to be respected, listened to and supported in every possible way. It cannot be that they are denied this support because of one powerful man’s decision.”

Dutch Minister Ploumen’s plan to set up an international fund to plug the 600 million USD gap caused by the reinstatement of the global gag rule is lauded by both Cordaid experts: “We hope the fund will help women to take informed decisions”, they say. “It should allow health workers who are hit by Trump to continue to provide family planning services and accurate sexual education. This will save the lives of thousands of women.”

Read more about the impact of the Global Gag Rule on women’s health.

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