Maybe I’ll move to London.
The British government will today publicly defy the United States by giving money for safe abortion services in developing countries to organisations that have been cut off from American funding.
Nearly 70,000 women and girls died last year because they went to back-street abortionists. Hundreds of thousands of others suffered serious injuries.
Critics of America’s aid policy say some might have lived if the US had not withdrawn funding from clinics that provide safe services – or that simply tell women where to find them.
Way to go, British government! This issue refers, of course, to the Global Gag Rule, which cuts off U.S. funding to any organization abroad that so much as mentions the word “abortion.” U.S. funding never pays for abortion abroad, so this isn’t an issue of foreign aid paying for actual procedures. The Gag Rule cuts off funding to any group that tells pregnant women if abortion is a legal option; lobbies its own government for reproductive rights; or performs abortions with its own non-U.S. funding. This rule further extends to HIV/AIDS funding, meaning that numerous AIDS clinics have been de-funded, cut back and shut down in the name of “pro-life” politics. And the clinics that are losing funding are the very clinics that are attempting to prevent unintended pregnancies in the first place, and that provide basics like prenatal and well-baby care.
DFID asked IPPF to produce a report on the scale of the damage caused by unsafe abortion. Death and Denial: Unsafe Abortion and Poverty, is published today. It reveals that an estimated 19 million women will risk the consequences of an unsafe abortion this year, of whom 70,000 will die. This accounts for 13% of the 500,000 maternal deaths each year. Reducing unsafe abortions is critical to reaching the UN’s Millennium Development Goal on cutting maternal mortality, said Mr Thomas.
Women’s low status in many poor countries makes them vulnerable to sexual coercion, abuse and exploitation, says the report. Almost 50% of sexual assaults worldwide are against girls aged 15 or less.
The death and injury toll is highest in countries where abortion is illegal or severely restricted, as in Kenya, where some 30% to 50% of maternal deaths are a result of unsafe abortion.
The Family Planning Association of Kenya, an IPPF member, chose to forfeit US funds rather than sign the “global gag” clause. It was forced to close three reproductive health clinics, scale back others and slash outreach programmes.
But restricting abortion is life-affirming.
When abortion is banned or highly restricted, and when women are lied to or blocked from basic access to reproductive healthcare, they die. The current U.S. policies kill women, period. They are not pro-life. And the UK deserves a huge round of applause for taking a big step to protect women’s health and women’s lives.
Thanks to Ms. Lauren for the link.
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