Opinion: Abortion rates rise as US cuts funding for women’s health clinics

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Advancing Republican efforts to reduce access to abortion, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on March 26 that the Trump administration to limit federal funding further to overseas healthcare providers who perform, promote, or even talk about abortions.

Moving expands ‘global gag rule’ imposed by Trump in 2017. It dramatically increases the number of groups affected by the cut in funding for any organization with a foreign partner that offers abortions – even if those overseas groups are not funded by the US government.

First implemented under Ronald Reagan in 1984, the global gag rule has been repealed by all Democrats and reinstated by all Republicans to occupy the Oval Office, reflecting the partisan nature of abortion.

Supporters of the global gag rule say funding abortion providers will reduce abortions. However, researchers at Stanford University in 2011 found that this US policy has in fact made women in sub-Saharan Africa twice as likely to have an abortion.

Gag rule increases abortions in Latin America and Africa

My recent study, published in November, confirms these findings in Africa and shows that the global gag rule has had an even greater effect in Latin America.

Analyzing abortion data from 51 developing countries between 2001 and 2008 – which included the reproductive decisions of about 6.3 million women – I found that Latin American women were three times more likely to have an abortion while the global gag rule was in effect.

Reflecting this impact, the percentage of pregnancies in Latin America that ended in abortion rose from 23% in 1994, under the Clinton administration, to 32% in 2010, after two terms of the Bush administration.

In the United States, where abortion is legal nationwide, about 18% to 23% of pregnancies end in abortion.

How a U.S. law hurts women abroad

Funding cuts under the global gag rule are leading to cuts in health workers, clinic closures and contraceptive shortages. Without family planning counseling and birth control, there are more unintended pregnancies – and, consequently, more abortions.

Numerous studies confirm that making abortions more difficult to obtain does not prevent them from happening. It just makes them less safe, as the procedure is not necessarily performed in a sterile facility by qualified doctors.

Latin America, a strongly Catholic region, has the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. Six countries, including Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, completely ban abortion. Others only allow it in extreme cases like rape, incest or maternal health.

Latin America also has the highest rate of illicit abortions in the world, according to a 2017 study published in The Lancet. Seventy-five percent of all abortions in Latin America are performed illegally.

Since Trump reinstated the global gag rule in 2017, health workers in developing countries have reported drastic reductions in the availability of contraception, adolescent sex education, and family planning services.

Yana Rodgers is Professor of Social Studies at Rutgers University. This article was first published by The conversation – “Abortions Rise Around The World When US Cuts Funding For Women’s Health Clinics, Study Finds”.

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