POLITICS

There's A Whole Lot At Risk With Donald Trump's Executive Order On Abortion

And women and girls are the likely losers.

25/01/2017 11:22 AM AEDT | Updated 25/01/2017 2:43 PM AEDT
Ron Sachs/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Donald Trump has issued an executive order "on steroids."

CANBERRA -- Donald Trump's early days move on abortion will have far reaching financial and social consequences, with women and girls the likely losers.

Surrounded by a group of smiling men, the new U.S. President on Monday reinstated a Ronald Reagan-era U.S. foreign aid ban relating to abortion advice, which has shocked the aid and women's rights sectors to expanded to be an executive order "on steroids".

What's known as a global gag rule, or the Mexico City Policy, the order is designed to rip funding for international -- regarded as "foreign" -- health organisations that counsel women on family planning options that include abortion. The idea is the NGOs certify that they will not "perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning" -- or lose U.S. funding.

The Original Language of the Mexico City Policy, 1984

"[T]he United States does not consider abortion an acceptable element of family planning programs and will no longer contribute to those of which it is a part. ...[T]he United States will no longer contribute to separate nongovernmental organizations which perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations."

It's been rescinded and reinstated between Republican and Democrat Presidents since Reagan put it in place in 1984.

Australia had a global gag too during the years of the Howard Government, when the votes of conservative independent Senator Brian Harradine and Family First's Steve Fielding were needed.

But the text of Trump's global gag rule was not immediately available, so what was not straight up reported was that instead of applying the gag for family planning in the developing world, it applies to "global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies".

So apart from the usual foreign NGOs, this global gag rule now applies to, among others:

  • USAID
  • The Department of Defense
  • The Department of State, including the offices relating to HIV/AIDS
  • The Department of Health and Human Services
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • The National Institutes of Health
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • The HHS Office of Global Affairs
  • The Peace Corps
  • The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)

The global health NGO specialising in reproductive health, PAI, has blasted it as a global gag rule "on steroids".

It estimates the decision puts $9 billion worth of U.S. aid in peril, and PAI and other NGOs warn that the number of abortions world wide will increase.

"To be clear, this policy is an attack on women's bodily autonomy and freedom," Suzanne Ehlers, the President and CEO of PAI said in a statement.

"We will see an increase in unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions as a result."

NGO, Marie Stopes International, is warning of millions of unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions and maternal deaths in the thousands.

What is at risk? Well just think of the health work being done in developing countries.

  • HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment;
  • The fight against malaria and tuberculosis;
  • Ebola;
  • Zika;
  • Childhood vaccines;
  • Early childhood nutrition.

So it affects men and boys, too.

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop insists the Government "remains committed" to the protection and promotion of sexual and reproductive health rights in Australia's foreign policy and aid program."

A spokeswoman said, "the Foreign Minister has elevated the issue of gender equality in our foreign policy and aid program."

Labor is calling on the Turnbull Government to lobby the Trump Administration to repeal the Global Gag Rule.

U.S. media is reporting a state of confusion within U.S agencies as to what the vastly expanded gag rule will mean. President Trump's uncharted waters are flowing freely.

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