‘Global gag rule’ could have dire impact in Latin american states, activists warn

Reinstatement of policy by Donald Trump could have chilling impact in region that already has high rates of teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality

Donald Trumps reversal of abortion-related aid policy will have a chilling impact on Latin american states, say family-planning campaigners in a region that already has some of the worlds highest rates of teenage pregnancy and maternal mortality.

The so-called global gag rule, which was signed into consequence by the new US president on Monday, withholds USAid funding from any organisation that offers abortion services or info.

Not merely will this hit wider civil society programs, such as contraception provision and campaigns to combat HIV/ Aids, but aid workers, academics and activists caution it could also bolster political opposition to womens reproductive rights.

This is very discouraging, said Mary Ellsberg, director of the Global Womens Institute at George Washington University. It will have a chilling impact on the work done by US organisations that work with Latin American womens groups that advocate safe abortion. It also adds to the recent conservative backlash in the region, which has assured prohibitions on all forms of abortion, including in cases of child rape and where the mothers life is at risk. This will have a huge negative effect on maternal mortality.

This predominantly Catholic region already has some of the worlds strictest anti-abortion statutes, with devastating social and health impacts.

In Peru, for example, it is estimated that 13% of all maternal demises are the result of botched back-street abortions. In recent years, the trend in many countries is towards a stricter interpretation of the law. In Paraguay, there was an outcry when a 10 -year-old girl was denied an abortion after being raped by her stepfather. In El Salvador, physicians were frightened when the authorities ruled that a young woman globally known as Beatriz had to take a foetus without a brain to term despite the risk to the mothers life.

Civil society groups have tried to ameliorate the situation through educational campaign, political advocacy and individual subsistence. The Trump administrations policy will attain that work more complicated and harder to fund, say observers.

The global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City policy, has been a US political football for more than three decades. First imposed by Ronald Reagan in 1984, it was later rescinded by Bill Clinton, reinstated by George W Bush, and rescinded again by Barack Obama.

But campaigners dread Trumps latest version is likely to be the more extreme yet because it coverings all global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies, according to a White House statement published on Monday. This potentially covers$ 9bn in aid fund, including the $575 m that the US donated to reproductive rights causes worldwide.

It will cause a crisis. We considered that under the Bush administration, said a former US official who expended two decades working in overseas programs for reproductive health. The US is the single largest bilateral funder for family planning programs in the world. Some of the money goes to the United nations organization, but its mostly for civil society. And many of those groups work on safe abortions, as well as contraception and HIV, so they are all threatened.

Trumps policy is likely to made Central America harder than South America, where Brazil and other emerging economies had already turned down US aid in this field because it came with too many conditions.

But in Haiti, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, groups that work on HIV and Zika prevention and family planning could also lose fund if their US partners are deemed in any way to fall pollute of the gag rule.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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