One of Donald Trump's first proclamations as President was to issue an Executive Order banning American funds being paid to organisations that either perform abortion or give advice on abortions. This essentially applies to any family planning centre and will particularly hit hard those Non-Government Organisations in developing countries. This is affectionately known as the 'Gag Order' or 'Mexico City Policy'. In other words, NGOs are banned from mentioning the 'a' word ... abortion.
There is empirical evidence that shows that the restriction on NGOs increases the number of abortions because the Gag Order means contraception and family planning advice isn't provided, resulting in unwanted pregnancies and unsafe terminations(1).
Trump's Gag Order is not new. Every Republican President going back to Reagan, has implemented it and every Democrat President since then has lifted it. This means there is plenty of evidence available to see its impact globally.
Those who are celebrating the Gag Order thinking it has just saved millions of lives, have not only condemned millions more foetuses to an unsafe abortion, but also put the lives of thousands women at risk. Not only will there be an increase in the number of abortions, there will be an increase in the number of deaths of women who undertake abortion.
One of the many lies that were told by Trump during the election campaign was that Hillary Clinton was in favour of late-term abortions. The gullible 'pro-lifers' ran with this and started sharing their own lies about it. In one of the debates, Trump stated that 'you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day'. What Trump and his loyal band of unquestioning pro-lifers didn't seem to get was that the word for this is birth ... by Caesarian Section(2). No-one aborts a baby on the ninth month on the final day.
As for actual late-term abortions and so-called partial-birth abortions, these are only done to protect the life of the mother or if the life of the foetus is unviable. Late term abortions are not done out of convenience. They are extremely rare and only performed to save the life of the mother or when the foetus cannot possibly survive. Perfect foetuses, or those with minor abnormalities are not terminated during the later term of the pregnancy(3).
Trump's abortion decree is an abortion of a policy that will kill more people than it claims to save.
Strict abortion laws do not stop abortions. For instance, the World Health Organisation published a report showing that the abortion rate is 29 in 1,000 people in Africa and 32 per 1,000 in Latin America. Both these areas have strict abortion laws. Whereas in Western Europe, the rate is 12 per 1,000, even though abortion is legal. Those countries with strict abortion laws, tend to find an increase in unsafe abortions. Restrictive abortion laws have little effect on abortion rates, only on the method and safety of abortions(4). There are likely at least two reasons why abortion rates are lower in Western Europe: better access to contraception and less poverty.
In America, when abortion was legal, the death rate of women was 0.6 per 100,000 procedures. In nations where there is a higher incidence of unsafe abortions, the death rate is 220 per 100,000, effectively 350 times higher. The WHO's report identifies that unintended pregnancy is a big cause of abortions and that one of the most effective ways to reduce this is to fund appropriate contraception programs.
A comprehensive study by Stanford researchers in 2011, examined abortion rates in 20 African countries from 1994 to 2008, covering 260,000 women. During the first seven years, Democrat Bill Clinton was President and had lifted the Gag Order that his Republican predecessor had implemented, while the last seven years were under Republican George W. Bush who reinstated the Gag Order. Abortion rates under Clinton were 10.4 per 10,000, while under George W. Bush the abortion rate rose by almost 40%, to 14.5 per 10,000(5).
|Impact of Gag Order (Mexico City Policy) when implemented in 2001(5)|
Part of the reason for the increase in abortions was that the Gag Order impacted on contraception, resulting in more unwanted pregnancy. One NGO, Marie Stopes International estimates that a cut just in their funding alone would result in 6.5 million extra unwanted pregnancies, 2.2 million more abortions and the deaths of 21,700 women over the next four years of the Trump administration(6).
One argument that pro-lifers will use for banning abortion is the emotional impact it has on women. Yet a study conducted by the Bixby Center for Global Research and published by the academic journal PLOS ONE, indicates that 95% of women who have abortions do not regret it. In fact, anti-abortion protesters who picket abortion clinics, tend to cause more emotional distress than having the abortion, with 16% of women reporting that they were upset by the protesters. However, within a week of having an abortion, women who experienced protesters reported no more distress than those who hadn't experienced protesters and did not regret their decision. In others words, the protests make no difference(7).
While banning abortion may appeal to Conservative Christians, it is a very simplistic approach to a complex problem. It's simplicity and lack of fore-thought makes it more dangerous than legal abortions.
It was significant that the signing of Trump's Executive Order on abortion was done so in the presence of a cabal of men. Not one woman was present.
Trump has stated that he wants women punished if they have an abortion(8). His Executive Order will do exactly that by driving abortion underground(9). Rather than stop abortion, it will bring back the coat-hanger - the stereotypical tool of trade for backyard abortions. Under the Gag Order, backyard abortions will be a booming industry for two reasons. Banning funding of NGOs who provide or advise on abortion, will reduce the access that women in developing countries have to contraception, increasing the likelihood of unwanted pregnancies and meaning more women will seek out abortion. Without having access to safe and medical abortion, many will try other methods that not only kill the foetus but significantly increase the risk of women dying in the process. In some cases, backyard abortions fail, often leaving the foetus alive but severely damaged so when born, the baby is suffering from significant injuries and will live life with severe disabilities.
Abortion is not a simple procedure, even when undertaken through a medical clinic. Every effort must be made to ensure that those who seek it, have access to the best possible care.
|Signing the Executive Order banning the funding of NGOs who provide or advise on abortion|
Furthering Trump's desire to punish women for abortion, Arkansas has just passed a law that lets rapists sue to stop their victims from having an abortion. Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) abortions will be banned and for those who do have one, there is the risk of a $10,000 fine or six years in prison(10).
Banning abortion doesn't stop abortion, it drives it underground.
Many women who want or need an abortion will find other, more dangerous methods to abort an unwanted pregnancy.
|Restrictive laws do not stop women from having abortions(11)|
The Republican Gag Orders do not reduce abortion(12). Previously, the Gag Orders have resulted in the closure of clinics, a reduction in contraception and an increase in unsafe abortions(13). If Trump and the pro-life lobby are truly concerned about reducing abortion, they would ensure there is adequate poverty-reduction measures in place and access to contraception. For instance, this could come in the form of foreign aid. Of course, the problem with this is that the right-wing tends to be opposed to foreign aid and look at ways to reduce it.
Domestically, poverty and financial stress, could be reduced through raising the minimum wage, but again most right-wingers oppose any increase in the minimum wage. What about job security and providing people with a realistic number of hours per week instead of putting them on casually for a couple of hours. The payment of a living wage would go a long way to reducing the number of abortions.
Bannning abortion does not stop abortions, it will only result in women seeking illegal and unsafe abortions which will increase their likelihood of dying.
40% of women who experience complications during unsafe abortions, do not receive medical care. It is estimated that the annual global cost of unsafe abortions is $232 million, and if all women who experienced complications were to receive medical treatment, the cost would be $562 million(4).
The primary driver of abortion is poverty or financial pressures(4). Access to adequate contraception is also a significant cause. To reduce abortion, we need to address these drivers.
If the 'pro-lifers' genuinely care about life, then they will address the issues that cause women to seek abortion, namely poverty and war. Financial stress such as that caused by costs of health care can be alleviated through a working health care system. Pro-lifers who opposed Obamacare are contributing to abortion levels, not reducing them. Similarly, pro-lifers who oppose a living wage or an increase to the minimum wage, are contributing to the abortion levels. Pro-lifers who support wars such as the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, have contributed to abortion levels. Pro-lifes who oppose the resettlement of refugees in western countries, such as in Europe, the US or Australia are also contributing to abortion levels. Pro-lifers who support Trump's ban on funding NGOs who provide advice on abortion are contributing to abortion levels and an increase in mortality rates of women who have abortions. Pro-lifers who oppose Foreign Aid are contributing to abortions globally. Pro-lifers concern for foetuses ends at birth. If they wish to truly stop abortions, then they must take a far greater concern for the welfare of people globally, this can only be done through sharing wealth and knowledge, yet Conservatives will scream that wealth redistribution and publicly funded health programs are a Communist plot.
Catholic nun, Sister Joan Chittister nailed the hypocrisy of those who claim to be pro-life but then oppose measures to reduce the causes of abortion:
'I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is'.
Many pro-lifers think that all they need to do is oppose the legalisation of abortion; that this is all that's needed. But as shown above, the law is not the solution. Ending poverty, providing free or affordable health care, providing employment and living wages, delivery social justice: these are things that will reduce the number of abortions across the globe.
Following Trump's inauguration, more than one million people attended rallies across the world, protesting Trump's position on abortion, refugees, Islam, racism and of course his own misogyny and sexism. This sign at one of the rallies showing a coat-hanger and the comment 'Never Again' encapsulates the reason all people who value life should oppose Trump's Gag Order on abortion(14):
As distasteful as abortion may be to many people, it would be safer to legalise abortion so that women have access to safe and affordable medical terminations than to seek out unsafe back-yard abortions.
Some may claim abortion is murder, but as Gandhi stated:
Poverty is the worst form of violence.
1. The Atlantic, Anna Diamond, 'Trump Strikes at Abortion With a Revived Foreign-Aid Rule', 23 January 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/01/mexico-city-policy/514010/. Accessed 4 February 2017.
2. Forbes, Tara Haelle, 'No, Late-Term Abortions Don't 'Rip' Babies Out of Wombs -- And They Exist For a Reason', 20 October 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/tarahaelle/2016/10/20/no-late-term-abortions-dont-rip-babies-out-of-wombs-but-they-are-needed/#4031e85b1bc4. Accessed 4 February 2017.
3. The Huffington Post, Dr Jennifer Gunter, 'Terms And Partial Birth Abortions: The Mythical Arch-Nemeses Of the Anti-Choice Movement', 23 October 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/term-and-partial-birth-abortions-the-mythical-arch-nemeses-of-the-anti-choice-movement_us_580d4427e4b02444efa3f33a. Accessed 4 February 2017.
4. 14. World Health Organisation, Guttmacher Institute, 'Facts on induced abortions worldwide', January 2012, http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/unsafe_abortion/abortion_facts/en/ and https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-worldwide. Accessed 4 February 2017.
5. World Health Organization, Eran Bendavid, Patrick Avila, Grant Miller, 'United States aid policy and induced abortion in sub-Saharan Africa', 27 September 2011, http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/89/12/11-091660/en/. Accessed 4 February 2017.
6. The Huffington Post, Anna Almendrala, 'Trump Blocked Global Abortion Funds, So the Dutch Government Is Stepping In', 26 January 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/netherlands-global-gag-rule-abortion_us_58890a2fe4b0024605fd7844. Accessed 4 February 2017.
7. UCSF's Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), Diana Green Foster, Katrina Kimport, Heather Gould, Sarah C.M. Roberts, Tracy A. Weitz, 'Effect of abortion protesters on women's emotional response to abortion', 6 September 2012, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0128832#sec013. Accessed 4 February 2017.
8. The Guardian, Lucia Graves, 'Trump once said women should be punished for abortion. Now he's making it happen', 24 January 2107, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/24/trump-once-said-women-should-be-punished-for-abortion-t. Accessed 4 February 2017.
9. The American Prospect, Nathalie Baptiste, 'This is What Happens When Abortion is Outlawed', 17 June 2015, http://prospect.org/article/what-happens-when-abortion-outlawed. Accessed 4 February 2017.
10. Independent, Charlotte England, 'Arkansas Passes law allowing rapists sue victims who want an abortion', 4 February 2017, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/arkansas-abortion-law-that-will-let-rapists-sue-victims-husbands-second-trimester-a7561066.html. Accessed 4 February 2017.
11. Guttmacher Institute, 'Restrictive laws do not stop women from having abortions', https://www.guttmacher.org/infographic/2016/restrictive-laws-do-not-stop-women-having-abortions. Accessed 4 February 2017.
12. Guttmacher Institute, Susan A. Cohen, 'U.S. Overseas Family Planning Program, Perennial Victim Of Abortion Politics, Is Once Again Under Seige', 8 November 2011, https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2011/11/us-overseas-family-planning-program-perennial-victim-abortion-politics-once-again-under. Accessed 4 February 2017.
13. Guttmacher Institute, Sneha Barot, Susan A. Cohen, 'The Global Gag Rule and Fights Over Funding UNFPA: The Issues That Won't Go Away', 3 June 2015, https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2015/06/global-gag-rule-and-fights-over-funding-unfpa-issues-wont-go-away. Accessed 4 February 2017.