10 July, 2020

Trump makes early move on restricting abortions around the world

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – U.S. President Mr . trump on Monday reinstated a major international gag rule that bans U.S.-funded groups around the globe from discussing abortion, a move that was widely expected yet still dismayed women's rights advocates.

The rule, which affects American non-governmental organizations working abroad, is a that incoming presidents have used to signal their positions on abortion rights. It had been created under U.S. President Ronald Reagan twenty six years ago.

Trump, an abortion opponent, signed the reinstatement directive at a ceremony during the White House on his fourth day in office. Former President Barack Obama had lifted the gag rule last season as he took office.

"Women's health insurance rights are now among the first casualties with the Trump administration," said Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity in Washington.

"The international gag rule has long been associated with an development of unsafe abortions and we all expect that Trump's global gag rule will cost women their lives," she said.

Reinstatement on the gag rule, formally the Mexico City policy, comes just 2 days after throngs marched in cities throughout the world within a show of unity for women's rights, among them abortion access.

While no official estimates were available, organizers said nearly 5 million people participated.

The far-reaching gag rule affects groups getting funding through the U.S. Agency for International Development, whether or not they choose separate money for abortion services, counseling or referrals, advocates note.

"It can be appalling to dictate to civil society groups and medical service providers how they may spend their own personal money and force these to withhold from women details about and accessibility extensive range of reproductive medical care," said Nancy Northup, president within the U.S.-based Center for Reproductive Rights.

The policy puts groups that provide women's heath care treatment within an "untenable position," said Brian Dixon of Population Connection Action Fund.

They can either accept the restriction to maintain their funding or they can reject the restriction and lose their funding, Dixon said.

"Either choice hurts ladies that utilize them."

Following the rule's inception back in 1984, former President Bill Clinton revoked it while he took office in 1993 and former President George W. Bush reinstated it in 2001.

"Life-saving global health funding shouldn’t be a political football," said Ann Starrs, head within the Guttmacher Institute, a respected reproductive rights group.

There isn’t an evidence the rule reduces abortion, she said.

"In truth, by targeting funding for overseas family planning programs, it may well contain the opposite effect by looking into making it tougher for a lot of women in order to avoid unintended pregnancy, which experts claim would increase recourse to unsafe procedures by girls who cannot access safe abortion care," she said.

(eporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, additional reporting by Steve Holland. Editing by Ros Russell and Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, global warming and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)