(TriceEdneyWire.com/GIN) – Maternal health groups worldwide are hoping that the election of Joe Biden will lead to a lifting of the so-called “global gag rule’ which cut off much-needed maternal health services in many parts of the developing world.
“I am excited and hopeful that things are going to be better,” said Nelly Munyasia, executive director of Reproductive Health Network Kenya. Her network promotes health services, including offering information about abortion.
“We are going to access funding and we are going to save the lives of women and girls,” she says, before explaining how tough the past four years has been.
Current US policies restrict access to safe abortion not just by attaching anti-abortion conditions to foreign aid. The United States also imposes its rules on how medical providers and non-profits spend their own funds, and on how they care for and advise their clients. The so-called global gag rule led to more pregnancies and lower contraceptive use among women in African countries reliant on U.S. foreign aid, according to a study published in the Lancet Global Health journal.
“Our findings suggest how a U.S. policy that aims to restrict federal funding for abortion services can lead, unintentionally, to more – and probably riskier – abortions in poor countries,” said Nina Brooks, a researcher at Stanford University who co-led the work.
Stanford University’s Eran Bendavid, who co-led the study, said its findings had probably captured only a partial view of the policy’s harm to maternal health, since knock-on effects of risky abortions were not measured.
“Because abortions are an important cause of maternal mortality, the increase in abortion uptake might also increase maternal deaths — and possibly disproportionately given that abortions under the policy could be less safe,” he said.
When organizations reject U.S. funds, they often have to reduce the scale of their programs—years of work to earn the trust of marginalized communities are also lost when clinics close and there are often no other existing programs to replace the services.
Past versions of the global gag rule have shown that the policy does not reduce the number of abortions and has instead increased unsafe abortions. It also has negative impacts on maternal, newborn, and child health.
President-elect Joe Biden is expected to repeal the Mexico City Policy – also known as the ‘global gag rule’ as one of his early acts in office.
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