Posted on

By Kayla Ryan

A consistently contentious issue is publicly funded access to reproductive services. From the Women’s March(es), to the viral photo of Trump signing the executive action reestablishing the Global Gag Rule surrounded by men (God forbid!), women’s “issues” have been all over the news. People are all up in arms about a group of seven men telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies – yet the executive action is not actually telling women what they can or can’t do with their bodies! Rather, it is determining what receivers of federal dollars can and can’t do with the money (which, btw, is a totally fair thing for government officials to do, whether they have penises or not). This executive action doesn’t limit the rights of women, it limits the ways that federal aid can be employed internationally.

On the surface, it seems like a dick move. If federal aid is already being serviced internationally, why not have it fund abortions? Personally, I see it as some pro-life bull, but let’s not get into that whole argument (this time). The Global Gag Rule does not make abortion or providing services related to reproductive health illegal nor does it entirely prevent abortions from occurring. According to Engender Health, the “Global Gag Rule” requires that any overseas organization receiving U.S. aid not have anything to do with abortion. This isn’t my favorite thing, but it’s (thankfully) not the end of reproductive health rights for women domestically and internationally… it’s only the beginning.

There are three things that can happen:

  1. If an organization receiving funding wants to continue to provide abortions, it will unfortunately lose U.S. aid – which sucks, but it likely receives aid from other sources, and will be able to continue to administer abortion services, just without U.S. aid.
  2. If an organization turns down aid in order to continue providing abortions, there will be more federal dollars floating around that can potentially be applied to other uses.
  3. If an overseas organization decides to accept the aid, they can still provide sexual education, birth control, contraceptives, STI treatment, and the works with the money; the only thing they can’t do is discuss or provide abortions.

Bear with me while I try to explain why this may actually be a good thing. Providing abortions in poorer countries (which is likely where the aid is going) that do not have extensive access to general health care is costly. Surgical abortions are an invasive medical procedure, requiring a very sterile and safe environment. A regularly maintained clinic would be necessary to perform abortion procedures, and establishing and maintaining a clinic requires a lot of planning, infrastructure, and is both expensive and risky. If the people living in the area where aid is being invested are not accepting of abortions, the clinic may be attacked, women visiting the clinic may be at risk, and the entire investment of aid may be destroyed/wasted due to local intolerance of abortions being provided by foreign NGOs.

Let’s say that instead, abortions were to only be administered using the pill (a medical abortion). This would somewhat eliminate the need for a clinic, but some sort of center would still have to exist. Although the pill seems simple and worry-free, it’s not. It basically forces a miscarriage to occur, so women who take the pill will bleed heavily and will likely have tissue matter exiting the body as well. If these pills are administered in a community where abortions are disapproved of socially and/or culturally, legal or not, the women are at risk of being verbally or physically attacked should someone discover their abortion, be it a family member, friend, whoever.

If aid were to be used mainly for reproductive/sexual education, STD/STI treatment, birth control, and contraceptive distribution, the money could be used more efficiently and with less risk. More women could be safely provided with these other resources if funding is primarily focused on the other less costly aspects of providing reproductive and sexual health services.

Providing abortion services likely consumes a majority of funding while putting women and clinics at risk. With the Global Gag Rule in place, organizations can focus on utilizing their resources on other portions of sexual and reproductive health services, which may actually yield positive results.

In all honesty, this policy does seem to be some sort of tactic to appease pro-life individuals and groups, but maybe it has some logic behind it. If US aid is already being provided to overseas organizations and NGOs, I don’t see why that aid can’t fund any abortions. Some organizations may turn down the aid, returning the money to be used by the federal government domestically, but the government would probably waste the money somehow anyways…

In the end, this is overall a shitty policy. However, I at least tried to portray it in a more positive light. I’m personally more concerned with defunding Planned Parenthood domestically, because private clinics typically function just as well as Planned Parenthood, if not better, and do so without causing unnecessary controversy over what the government should and shouldn’t fund or consuming tons of taxpayer money. Amazing how that works, huh!

All in all, try not to get too depressed by headlines emphasizing how many more women will die because of the Gag Rule. Hopefully, the rule winds up allowing U.S. aid to be used more effectively in providing contraceptives, STI treatment, and sexual health education abroad, and that there will be other countries and donors funding and providing abortions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *