The Trump administration has taken two decisions which will devastate family planning services in some of the world’s poorest countries. Population Matters is supporting a range of international efforts to defend them. Please join the campaign.
In January 2017, the so-called ‘global gag rule’ was reinstated by President Trump. The rule, which had been rescinded by President Obama when he entered office, means that the US government will not give any aid to organisations which provide abortion services or even provide clients with information about them. The US is currently the world’s largest funder of family planning services through overseas aid and about $600 million of US aid annually is directly affected.
The decision has a wider impact: the prohibition extends beyond family planning to other health services, such as child and maternal health programmes and HIV prevention, compounding the effect of cuts to the overall US aid budget.
Then, in March 2017 the administration announced it would stop all support for the United Nations Population Fund – UNFPA – which provides and coordinates family planning in the world’s poorest countries.
The international response
Very shortly after the ban was introduced, the Dutch government initiated the SheDecides project, intended to generate funds to replace those likely to be withdrawn and lobby other governments to provide additional funding. A number of governments have pledged money to the initiative.
In July 2017, a global family planning summit took place in London, in which a range of governments and other large donors pledged further support for family planning. The UK government, previously the second largest donor nation for family planning after the US, committed an additional £45m over several years.
The US cuts have already had an impact and in November 2017, Human Rights Watch warned it would lead to “increased unsafe abortions and maternal deaths”. Evidence shows that where abortion is banned, illegal abortion simply becomes more prevalent. According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly 7 million women in developing countries were treated for complications from unsafe abortion in 2012. More than 22,000 women die every year because of unsafe abortion, almost all of them in developing countries. In March 2018, the Trump administration announced that it would once again block funding to UNFPA.
The Guttmacher Institute‘s latest reports on the effects of the US cuts determined that each decrease of $10 million in U.S. funding would result in the following:
- 416,000 fewer women and couples would receive contraceptive services and supplies;
- 124,000 more unintended pregnancies, including 54,000 more unplanned births, would occur;
- 53,000 more abortions would take place (35,000 of which would be provided in unsafe conditions); and
- 240 more maternal deaths would occur.
Funding reductions of different magnitudes would have proportional effects. For example, a $20 million cut would result in double the impact described above.
Population Matters is one of more than 230 organisations worldwide to support a statement backing the SheDecides initiative. We have also joined more than 400 development, social justice, women’s rights and family planning organisations in signing a joint statement condemning the reinstatement of the gag rule.
Please join the campaign to defend family planning:
- You can do so by supporting the SheDecides initiative.
- You can also ask your elected representative to push their governments to provide additional aid for family planning and by supporting SheDecides. SheDecides has provided a template letter to send to your MP. Please use their template to write to your MP to tell them how important SheDecides is as an organisation and how much it needs UK government funding. If you are a UK citizen, you can use WriteToThem to identify and contact them.