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Trump Administration Plans to Extend Policy That Cuts Funding To Global Health Projects Providing Abortions

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Sep 16, 2020

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Image Credit: Thamarai Healthcare

During the final weeks of U.S. President Donald Trump’s term, his administration pushed to extend a pro-life policy that would affect health funding around the world. This policy currently affects more than 1,300 global public health projects and involves an estimated $12 billion (USD) in aid.

This policy, named Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance (PLGHA), was first initiated in 1984 by U.S. President Ronald Reagan. It required foreign NGOs to certify that they will not promote or perform abortions as a method of family planning as a condition to receive U.S. health aid. Since 1984, this policy was overturned by Democratic governments and reinstated by Republican governments. The Trump administration took it one step further by applying the rule to all U.S. funding provided on a contract basis to organizations, which comprises almost 40% of all global health funding provided by the U.S.

The current Covid19 public health crisis makes tying health aid to the provision of abortions more perverse. According to a U.S. government report published in August, this policy resulted in cutting aid for organizations in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America that assist with family planning, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, maternal and child health, infectious diseases, and nutrition. More than half (60%) of the organizations affected included support for anti-retroviral treatment and testing for HIV/AIDS, testing for communicable diseases, antenatal (pre-birth) care, and family planning counseling.

In India, organizations providing family planning and contraceptive services that also receive U.S aid are not affected as they do not provide abortion services. International organizations that do provide abortion services in India (Ipas, International Planned Parenthood) do not accept U.S. funding consciously. “These organizations do not want to be held hostage to these anti-abortion rules,” Vinoj Manning, executive director of Ipas Development Foundation, told Scroll. “Besides, they keep changing every four years when the government changes.”


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Abortions: Visualizing the Data on One of the Most Fraught Topics in Women’s Health Care

What was majorly affected was reproductive healthcare in regions like Africa, which saw lapses in aid, when organizations like International Planned Parenthood Foundation and Marie Stopes International lost around $145 million in aid. This led to a significant drop in family planning efforts that took place in Liberia, Togo, Madagascar, Sénégal, and Mali, while increasing the rate of unsafe abortions in countries like Kenya.

“The global gag rule was among the first of many attacks the administration launched against health and human rights. Study after study — including from the State Department — has demonstrated that this neocolonialist policy has inflicted a crushing blow to health care access for people around the world, especially those who already face systemic barriers to care, including women and girls, young people, and LGBTQ+ people,” Monica Kerrigan, the executive director, Planned Parenthood Global, said in a statement. She adds, “And as COVID-19 continues to claim lives and devastate communities, the administration is knowingly moving to expand this policy. There is no excuse for this brazen disregard for people’s health and rights.”

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is the senior culture writer at The Swaddle, with an interest in cultural analysis, environment, and the science of mental health.  Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

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