Friday, April 7, 2017

Trump Signs, Women Die, and Nations Struggles. How the Mexico City Protocol Perpetrates Global Class Warfare

In spite of 3.2 million protestors (1% of the total US population) taking to the streets on January 21st in support of women's rights, and on the 44th anniversary of the US Supreme Court ruling on abortion in Roe v Wade, President Trump reinstated a particularly restrictive version of the Mexico City Protocol. Otherwise known as the global gag rule, the Regan-era policy ends funding toward organizations in developing nations offering abortion counselling or advocating for abortion rights within the country.

International condemnation that followed noted that restricting funding for family planning that counsels on abortion does nothing to eradicate abortion. Instead, it has the opposite effect: it ensures women will access unsafe abortion and, as is often the case with these types of policies, the entirety of family planning services will be affected. Importantly, The Helms Amendment already prevents American taxpayer dollars from funding abortion procedures outright. The Mexican City Protocol compounds this by additionally preventing family planning services from using their own money to advocate, counsel or speak about abortion. If American dollars were funding any other family-planning health services in that organization, those funds immediately dry up.

Mr. Trump has gone beyond this. He has increased the amount and types of funding that would be cut. No longer will this gag rule only apply to family-planning funding, but also to funding on HIV/AIDs testing and treatment, maternal health care, the prevention of malaria, zika, and more. In total, the Trump-expanded gag rule will affect $9.5 billion dollars in global health funding, compared to $575 million dollars in family planning funding under past Republican Presidents. The gag order will not only affect giant international women's health services such as Marie Stopes* and International Planned Parenthood*, but also UN agencies such as the UNFPA* which saw its global funding terminated on April 4th. *clicking the links will lead you to their donation page. 

The less women are able to access family planning services, the more unintended pregnancies will occur, and more women will choose unsafe abortions. Every time the global gag rule is enacted, more women in developing nations die or become disabled from unsafe abortions. It's not just abortions: women in developing nations have many more pregnancies over the course of their lives and each one increases their risk of disability or death as a result of complications from birth. On a global scale, the Mexico City Protocol and the Helms Amendment condemn the poorest nations to cycles of poverty, cutting funds from family planning delivered by NGOs or aid agencies, who are often the only providers of reproductive planning services, especially for the most disenfranchised in rural areas. It takes away contraception and abortion from those who need it the most, in countries that are facing the multiplying effects of overpopulation: no jobs, weak public services, no housing, water and food shortages, lack of education, violence, refugee crisis, severe effects of climate change... putting mile high obstacles to viable futures.

As one doctor puts it: "Abortion is a class battle." But when it affects women on and nations worldwide, it becomes global class warfare.

When organizations can no longer counsel or advocate for abortion services, this also discourages governments in the most needy of countries to enact more liberal policies for this reproductive right. Numerous international studies have also shown that treating the consequences of unsafe abortions through hospital visits, time spent in hospitals and procedures done, amounts to a higher cost than providing safe abortions in the first place. The women that access unsafe abortions resulting in complications or death are also the most impoverished  and resourceless women, and the social consequences are vast: women who have permanent physical damage are less likely to carry out strenuous household tasks, less likely to access the economic sphere, and less likely to participate in civil society. In short, their ability to be empowered and contribute to the development of their families, community and larger society is drastically undermined. Unsafe abortions can also result in sterility and permanent disability, leaving these women outcasts from their families and communities.

In Pakistan, there is high level of unmet need for contraception, and as such, 2.2 million abortions were recorded in 2012. Because Pakistani law states that abortions performed outside of the goal to save the life of the mother are illegal (and even this lacks clarity), none of the hospitals offer abortion services, and these are primarily conducted underground. As a result, nearly 624 000 cases of complications were reported in 2012. The Pakistani government contributes barely 1% of its GDP to health services, and it is USAID and aid agencies such as UNFPA who operate on family planning throughout the country. With funding now cut, Pakistan is heading for disaster. 64% of its population sits under the age of 30, all in dire need of access to family planning services so that they can access education, employment and viable futures in Pakistan's development. Pakistan, like so many other nations, needs a comprehensive nation-wide family planning strategy, increased capacity and aid to its provision of public health services and multi-sectoral support to empower youth and women to access their full array of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Above, International Planned Parenthood estimates the cost in lives, unsafe abortions and contraceptive shipments as a result of the reinstatement and widening of the global gag rule. 

A global study on the effects of the Mexico City Protocol found that it affected entire nation's ability to provide contraceptive services. USAID has previously cut off shipments of contraception to 16 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and Lesotho, with rates of HIV affecting 1 in 4 women, lost its entire access to condoms through the defunding of The Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association. Nepal experienced a similar fate in 2001, when it lost $400, 000 in funding for contraceptions, which reduced its nation-wide stockpile by two thirds. Funding cuts meant Israel ran out of Depo-Provera in 2003, the birth control used by 70% of their clients, and in the Bush-era provision of the gag order, Ghana and Kenya, among others,  closed 15 clinics and reduced staff by nearly 50%, affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of women.

It is widely understood now that educating girls and women is one of the top factors as to whether a nation is lifted from poverty or not. Educated women globally choose to have less children, but they can only do so if sexual and reproductive health services are provided without barriers to access. Less children allow women to access the economic sphere, put more and better food on the table, leads to healthier and more educated and financially secure future generations, these women invest in their communities, and it empowers them to believe in themselves and their abilities. But it is education specifically around sexual and reproductive health and rights (known as Comprehensive Sexuality Education) coupled with free access to family planning methods that enable women to step outside of the cyclical generations of poverty. By perpetuating this global class hierarchy through funding restrictions, the United States all but ensures that the nations that are most struggling will be stuck in poverty for generations to come. Around the world, women's lives, empowerment, success and health bear the brunt of Mr. Trump signing a piece of paper in Washington.

The first awareness campaign by IPPF during the 1980's.

1 comment:

cdnkaro said...

Very well written, Clara-a poignant article.