One of Donald Trump’s first acts as president of the USA was to sign an executive order which prohibits organisations that receive US family planning assistance from using non-US funding to provide abortion services, information, counselling or referrals, making it impossible for organisations not only to deliver the service of safe abortions, but also to give education, to promote contraceptives and make sure that people have access to contraceptives.
I lived for many years in a number of African countries where abortion was illegal and contraceptives were hard to come by, usually due to the influence of Western churches and religious organisations pouring money into the country, who successfully lobbied governments to ban both. In these countries where women did not have access to basic reproductive healthcare, were given no council, no assistance and few options, a common story repeated itself over and over.
The story would differ in how the girl came to be pregnant, but there was a consistent theme; for whatever reason, she had been willing to risk her life to have an abortion performed. In many cases the girl was raped, infected with HIV, seriously ill, disabled, or her religious family would do an honour killing on finding out about the pregnancy, or she did not have the money and a home in which to raise the baby. On failing to find a way to abort, it was not uncommon after giving birth, to tie the newborn in a plastic bag and dispose of it.
This sad story had a common ending. The girl would search out and find an “alternative”; usually a medicine man or quack willing to perform the abortion for a fee. How the abortion was performed varied, but it almost always ended with death or near death as the final scenario, usually from infection setting in, as the girl was left without medicine or proper care.
Organisations set up to assist women in this kind of crisis are indispensible to minimising the risk to them. By cutting off the funding to these organisations, Trump is essentially handing down the death sentence to many women. Marie Stopes estimated that if it cannot find replacement funding, the new policy will result in 6.5 million unintentional pregnancies, 2.2 million abortions and 21,700 women dying in pregnancy or childbirth. When a woman facing this kind of dillemma is not given assistance from a reputable organisation or establishment, she is forced to find it elsewhere. The abortion will still happen, all that Trump’s global gag rule changes is that the women too may die and their collective blood will be on his hands.