The Global Gag Rule – Real Concerns

I have seen comments on some friends’ timelines that lead to me to think some people don’t really understand the consequences of the Global Gag Rule that Donald Trump reinstated this week via Executive Order. The fact is that US funds already can’t be used to perform abortions, but the Global Gag Rule bars US foreign aid from going to any nongovernmental organization (NGO) that either provides abortion services or even discusses abortion as an option for patients, even if the abortion-related services are paid for with other funds, like private donations.

One line of commenting I’ve seen goes like this: “My tax dollars will still be used for other women’s health care procedures.” Well, no, they won’t, unless there happens to be another NGO in the region that can be funded. There’s not usually dozens of organizations lining up to provide women’s healthcare and family planning services in these places.

Which leads me to the second line of commenting: “Foreign countries will just use their own money for abortions.” Where, exactly, do you think this money is going? The idea that the foreign countries being served by an NGO will use their own money to fund abortion services, or any other women’s healthcare needs, assumes the funding is going to countries with the money and interest to do so. It’s not. It’s going to poor countries where the women often have no other healthcare provider to turn to, and a restrictive, male-dominated society that oppresses them. And, let’s pretend for a second that the government of the country is willing to give money to the NGO to pay for abortion-related services. Well, as soon as they do that, the NGO becomes ineligible for US foreign aid.

Finally: “Just because U.S. tax dollars can’t be used to promote abortion as an option, it doesn’t mean foreign women won’t have choices.” Ummm. . . yes, it does under the terms of the Global Gag Rule since money can’t go to the NGO at all, even though the US funds would be used for other services. Again, we’re frequently talking about rural areas in impoverished countries that are often war-torn or in the midst of drought or famine, or where government officials are more concerned about lining their own pockets than about caring for their poor women. These women can’t go to the Urgent Care clinic down the street or pick a new doctor from the directory. They are lucky if there is even one NGO within traveling distance that can provide them with care.

Are you okay with women in these countries not getting adequate pre-natal care, or dying in childbirth because they don’t have access to medical personnel or clean facilities? Are you okay with a woman who has been brutally raped by a militia or rebel group not getting post-trauma care, possibly suffering long-term pelvic damage, only to have to raise a child who will always be ostracized and seen as evidence of her guilt in her own rape? Are you okay with the newborn infant growing up in a refugee camp, dying from malnutrition or lack of vaccinations, or being forced to become a child soldier? Because those will be just some of the end results of this action.

I understand there are some people who criticized the Women’s March because “what about the women suffering in other countries where they actually have things bad?” Well, NOT reinstating the Global Gag Rule would have been a significant way to help those women if that’s what the real concern was. And, FYI, I was marching for those women, too.