The “Global Gag Rule” Harms Us Most: The Negative Effects of Cutting Funds on Abortion in Developing Countries

Photo: James McNellisBy Yomaira Lopez
M.A. Candidate, 2018

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

In January, the new administration of President Donald Trump approved the “Global Gag Rule,” a new law that prohibits international organizations that practice or give information about abortions from receiving money from the U.S. government.

Even though this law was passed in and intended for the United States, it has a specific negative impact in developing countries.

For some of the most notable NGOs like Planned Parenthood, Population Services International, and Ipas, the ruling means a loss of up to USD 600 million in US support. But those cuts are across the board; they cut aid to organizations that give information about abortion even when the money is used for other services, including prenatal care, sex education, sexually transmitted disease prevention and even helping to improve legislation in countries like Chile, Peru and Colombia. The aid from these international organizations has been vital in helping developing countries reduce death from unsafe abortion and improving sexual health as a whole.

In Latin America, it is estimated that 4 million unsafe abortions occur each year. These unsafe abortions, which in developing countries account for 95 percent of all abortions, occur when women do not have access to information or health care when faced with an unwanted pregnancy: sometimes through rape, sometimes by failure of a contraceptive method or even by lack of knowledge and lack of access to contraceptive methods. Unsafe abortions, of course, often end in medical complications and, in the worst cases, in deaths. Abortions will not stop when funding stops, they will just happen in a nonsafe enviroment.

And it is the poorest women who need this services the most. Procolombia, an NGO who works with aid from USAID, says it “serves 600,000 people a year. Of those, 90 percent are women, and of those, 90 percent are very poor women. The funding we get from USAID is especially targeted to some of the most vulnerable populations in the poorest areas.” This discriminatory law is not only taking away women’s rights around the world, it is also punishing those who need it the most.

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Photo: James McNellis

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