This article originally appeared at Vita di Donna on 12 June 2017 and can be read here (in Italian). Associazione Vita di Donna Onlus is a non-profit organization based out of Rome, Italy, that aims to protect women’s health and reproductive rights, headed up by Dr. Elisabetta Canitano.
The Mexico City Policy, widely known as the Global Gag Rule, currently withholds U.S. funding from organizations that provide or promote abortions. This policy previously only applied to approximately $600 million (US dollars) in family-planning funding. However, Donald Trump’s expansion to the rule now affects nearly all global health assistance – $8.8 billion in funding, about $6 billion of which comes from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which had been previously made exempt by President George W. Bush.
Since many developing countries have spent years reworking their health systems so patients can get several varieties of health care in one place, the consequences of this expansion will be nothing less than catastrophe. Non-government organizations (NGOs) will now be forced to choose between neglecting clients in need of abortions, and losing necessary funding to fight malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases.
Including PEPFAR in this expansion will also ensure major cutbacks to HIV-prevention efforts, including one of the program’s most profound successes: a decrease in mother-to-child transmission of the virus. Additionally, NGOs who sign on to the agreement would not be able provide abortion counseling to a pregnant woman infected with HIV, for example. NGOs who do not sign on to the agreement lose such significant funding that they would hardly be able to function effectively as a health org.
A handful of exceptions to the policy provide small comfort in these remarkably alarming changes, and the US State Department has promised that the amount of global health assistance provided by the US will not change – only who receives it. However, if the State Department only gives out funding to US-based global health organizations and not their partners based in the countries receiving aid, the money will not go nearly as far to address current and future issues effectively.
Ironically enough, the expanded gag rule will also be known as “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,” a dark joke of a name for a policy that will surely cause more deaths than protect lives in the developing world.
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