A mere two days after millions of people marched around the word with and in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, President Donald J. Trump announced the “Global Gag Rule,” a major blow to women’s rights and human rights worldwide.
Trump’s Global Gag Rule prohibits U.S. international aid to groups that so much as educate their communities on safe abortion. Even if an organization is using non-U.S. funding for such activities, they will lose their U.S. funding if they offer counseling, advocate for legal reform, provide abortions, or even provide referrals at any time.
Foreign NGOs and clinics, many of whom depend on U.S. funding to deliver life-saving healthcare, must choose between two impossible choices: 1) take the funding they depend on but deny the services their communities need and deserve, or 2) refuse U.S. funding and struggle to keep clinics open, offer services, and advocate for laws that reduce unsafe abortions.
This is not the first time the U.S. has imposed such restrictions on foreign aid. Under George Bush, implementation of such policies did not decrease the number of abortions, but increased abortion rates. It also resulted in a sharp decline in availability of contraceptives, and increased rate of maternal death, and increased rate of closed health clinics.
The policy allows for exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, but not for health endangerment or severe or fatal fetal impairment, both mandated by international law as the baseline standards for when abortion must be accessible. What’s more, it’s unclear if services are ever provided under these three exceptions for fear of losing U.S. foreign aid. Trump’s Global Gag means that women and girls who depend on U.S.-funded health facilities may not even hear about the options that may save their lives.
We’ve seen what a lack of access to safe and legal abortion means: in Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, where multiple countries have severe abortion restrictions, including total bans, unsafe abortions and maternal death have spiked, and women could face up to 50-years in jails for miscarriages.
Trump’s Global Gag Rule, in essence and in practice, negates human rights standards for women — mostly poor and rural women — who depend on international aid-funded clinics, healthcare facilities, and organizations. The consequences of Trump’s Global Gag rule are not theoretical: this curtailing of women’s rights will have devastating impacts on women and girls worldwide — from a lack of contraception to an increase of unsafe abortions and maternal death.
It’s a telling sign that only 48 hours after a global outcry for human rights, especially women’s rights, one of the first moves of the Trump administration is to undermine women’s rights worldwide. Now more than ever we must stand up for human rights and against human rights abuses.
Join us, and demand President Trump to choose human rights.
This post was originally published on Human Rights Now.