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Trump’s hard line on abortion 'will cost thousands of women their lives'

The extension of the ban on US foreign aid for abortion denies women services they desperately need, and puts nurses who care for them in a terrible position, says Marie Stopes’ director of policy.
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The extension of the ban on US foreign aid for abortion denies women services they desperately need, and puts nurses who care for them in a terrible position, says Marie Stopes director of policy

As part of the team at Marie Stopes UK, I believe that every woman has the right to choose whether and when to have children. But for millions of women worldwide, that right has just been snatched away.

Every year, 21.6 million women in developing countries are so desperate to end their pregnancies that they put their lives on the line by risking an unsafe abortion. Thousands of them die and millions more are left with life-altering injuries. The Mexico City Policy, an executive order re-enacted by President

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The extension of the ban on US foreign aid for abortion denies women services they desperately need, and puts nurses who care for them in a terrible position, says Marie Stopes’ director of policy


Marie Stopes International estimates 2.1 million unsafe abortions and 21,700 maternal
deaths in developing countries during President Trump’s first term. Picture: Alamy

As part of the team at Marie Stopes UK, I believe that every woman has the right to choose whether and when to have children. But for millions of women worldwide, that right has just been snatched away.

Every year, 21.6 million women in developing countries are so desperate to end their pregnancies that they put their lives on the line by risking an unsafe abortion. Thousands of them die and millions more are left with life-altering injuries. The Mexico City Policy, an executive order re-enacted by President Trump, just made that situation even worse.

The policy prohibits the US government from funding non-US organisations that perform or ‘actively promote’ abortion. There is already a long-standing rule in place that the US government never funds abortions in other countries, but this order extends it by blocking funding to organisations that perform abortions with their own funding.

 ‘Global Gag Rule’ 

This effectively means organisations such as Marie Stopes International forfeit all US aid if we so much as tell a woman abortion is a legal option in her country, refer her to another provider, or advocate for abortion rights with our own resources. 

It also puts nurses and other front-line health professionals in a terrible position, unable to provide the women who depend on them with the information and services that they desperately need.  

This policy is short-sighted and counterproductive. Rather than reducing the number of abortions that take place in developing countries, it will deprive millions of women of the basic means to manage their fertility. The last time this ‘Global Gag Rule’ was implemented, the number of terminations rose significantly, simply because it reduced women’s access to contraception. 

At Marie Stopes International, we see first-hand that a woman who doesn’t want to continue with a pregnancy will go to any lengths to end it. Putting greater obstacles in her path only makes her decision more dangerous. As a result of this policy, approximately 1.5 million fewer women across the developing world will have access to contraception from a trained Marie Stopes International provider each year.

Outraged voices 

We estimate that the loss of Marie Stopes International’s USAID-funded services alone could lead to an extra 6.5 million unintended pregnancies, 2.2 million abortions (2.1 million of them unsafe) and 21,700 maternal deaths in Trump’s first term.

Here in the UK, one in three women in the UK will have an abortion. It’s one of the most common medical procedures in the UK and it is only by quirks of fate and birth that the Mexico City Policy will not directly affect our lives. Luck is all that separates us from the millions of women and girls forced to risk a backstreet abortion, and that is why women across the world are raising their voices in outrage to say ‘this is wrong’.

I feel lucky to live in the UK, where safe, regulated procedures are available. The only exception to this is Northern Ireland, where abortion law is so draconian that women are forced to travel to another country to access legal health care and girls and their mothers are prosecuted for buying abortion pills online.

The world has come a long way for women in the past 100 years. We can vote, run for government, head multinational corporations. We can do pretty much anything men can do, and a few things that they can’t. And yet some people still believe we can’t be trusted with control over our own bodies.


About the author 

 

 

 

Genevieve Edwards is director of policy at Marie Stopes UK

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