‘As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I’m pro-life. I’m totally against abortion, having to do with Planned Parenthood… I would defund it because of the abortion factor’
— During the 2016 CNN-Telemundo Republican debate in February 2016.
“There has to be some form of punishment.”
— On women who would undergo an illegal abortion, in an interview with Chris Matthews in March 2016.
These quotes (Donald Trump’s, if you didn’t recognise them) only just scrape the surface in beginning to encapsulate the motivation behind Trump’s controversial decision to reinstate the global gag rule, which was initially introduced by Ronald Reagan in 1984. In January 2017, on his fourth day in office, Trump not only reinstated the rule, but also extended it.1 In order to receive funding from the US for family planning, non-governmental organisations are prohibited from doing work which is in any way associated with abortion. Under Trump’s modifications, this will include all global health funding, and not just the budget for family planning budget.2
The fact that Trump’s order goes even further than in the past is alarming; this change will encompass any organisation that receives funding from US Aid, totalling an estimated US$9.5 billion in foreign aid.1 Access to safe abortion services in developing countries is often dependent on overseas financial aid, of which the US plays a huge role. Up to 20 countries have indicated support for the Netherlands’ plan to set up an international safe abortion fund to replenish these lost funds in response to the rule, however the potential loss of such funding is expected to have a significant impact on provision of services.3 It is estimated that without alternative funding, the loss of services between 2017 and 2020 could result in 6.5 million unintended pregnancies, 2.1 million unsafe abortions and a concomitant 21700 maternal deaths.4
In this short video, Dr Veronica Ades, a gynaecologist/obstetrician working with MSF, explains the destructive effects of Trump’s new rule on women’s health:
Furthermore, efforts to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, of which unsafe abortion has been established as a primary cause, have long been prioritised below other global health problems. The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were the overarching framework that guided global efforts to improve health and combat poverty between 2000 and 2015. MDG 5 sought to improve maternal health, without any targets specific to the prevention of unsafe abortion.5 This is despite the current Sustainable Development Goals 3, 4 and 5 (on health, education and gender equality) relating to preventing unsafe abortion.5 In recognition of the slow pace of progress on MDG 5 compared to the other goals, the UN Secretary-General unveiled a new global strategy for women’s and children’s health in 2010.4 Whilst policy makers are eager to promote increased access to family planning services, the prioritisation of unsafe abortion by many prominent global efforts remains limited by social taboo and lack of consensus. The absence of key global players creates an undeniable barrier to effective and coordinated international aid required to combat unsafe abortion.
- Starrs AM. The Trump global gag rule: an attack on US family planning and global health aid. The Lancet. 2017 Feb; 389(10068): 485-6.
- Stone S. Trump’s ‘Global Gag Rule’ On Abortion Hurts All Women [Internet]. Jersey City, NJ (US): Forbes; 2017 [cited 2017 Feb 17]. Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/judystone/2017/01/25/trump-is-hell-bent-on-punishing-women-with-yuge-global-gag-rule/#776c39bc1c75
- Darroch G. Dutch respond to Trump’s ‘gag rule’ with international safe abortion fund. The Guardian (UK). 2017 Jan 26. [cited 2017 Feb 17] Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jan/25/netherlands-trump-gag-rule-international-safe-abortion-fund
- Marie Stopes International (UK). Marie Stopes International [Internet]. London, UK: Marie Stopes International (UK); 2017 [cited 2017 Feb 17]. Available from: https://www.mariestopes.org
- Barot S. Unsafe abortion: the missing link in global efforts to improve maternal health. Guttmacher Policy Review. 2011 Spring; 14(2): 24-8
- Cover image: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/europes-abortion-fight/abortion-europe-coat-hanger-rebellion-grips-poland-n559621
- Donald Trump Portrait [image]: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images/45/PE%20Color.jpg
- Gag rule protest [image]: https://www.forbes.com/sites/judystone/2017/01/25/trump-is-hell-bent-on-punishing-women-with-yuge-global-gag-rule/#776c39bc1c75