Trump Just Reinstated a Global Anti-Abortion Rule That Has Increased Abortions

Republicans’ latest attack on abortion access will likely produce more abortions.
January 23, 2017, 7:52pm
A health worker counsels a woman. Image: USAID

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday to reinstate a policy that blocks US foreign aid dollars from reaching any organization that provides abortion counseling or services, dubbed the "Global Gag Rule" by critics.

The policy, formally called the Mexico City Policy, was enacted first under Ronald Reagan and is a more conservative addition to the already existing Helms Amendment, which states that organizations that receive US foreign aid can't use it toward providing abortion services.

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Under the executive order, organizations like the International Planned Parenthood Foundation and Marie Stopes International, two of the largest reproductive health organizations in developing countries across the world, could lose millions of dollars in funding for programs that provide women's health checkups, contraception and counseling.

There are some unintended consequences to not funding organizations that offer abortion services: more abortions.

These programs have been instrumental in providing safe birth control and curbing mother and child deaths in countries like Nigeria and Malawi. "Since 2012, there are 30 million more women in the world who now have access to modern family planning services," Seema Jalan, the executive director of the United Nations Foundation's Universal Access Project, told Motherboard.

The executive order, last upheld under the George W. Bush administration, is a fixture of the GOP, so it's unsurprising that Trump signed off on it so quickly, and the motivation could be a mixture of ideological and fiscal beliefs. But there are some unintended consequences to not funding organizations that offer abortion services: more abortions. A 2011 study published by the World Health Organization "found robust empirical patterns suggesting that the Mexico City Policy is associated with increases in abortion rates in sub-Saharan African countries."

"There was an actually an increase in unintended pregnancies, and an increase in abortions and HIV," last time the Global Gag Rule was in place, Jalan agreed. Women are also more likely to get unsafe abortions without the support of clean facilities and health workers.

Family planning, which encompasses birth control, prenatal care and financial counseling actually saves health systems money since families have less, and healthier children. The US has been the largest bilateral funder of reproductive health and family planning services across the world, and the new executive order will hit the poorest women, in the poorest countries, the hardest.

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