By John Seager
A Trump-Pence administration would be a disaster for women and girls everywhere: not just here in the United States but throughout the developing world as well.
The late Senator Jesse Helms compiled an infamous record. He’s now long gone, but a Republican administration will keep his harmful legacy alive. For more than four decades, the Helms Amendment has been used to prevent U.S. funding for abortion services abroad even in the case of rape, incest or threat to the life of the woman. While access to safe abortion is a human right and no woman or girl should be deprived of it, this is especially important right now as rape is used as a weapon of war against thousands of women by ISIS, Boko Haram and other extremist groups.
Secretary Hillary Clinton has pledged to fix the flawed enforcement of the law and allow for funding of safe abortion care for women and girls who’ve been raped, who are victims of incest or whose lives are threatened by pregnancy. And the Democratic platform explicitly calls for the repeal of the odious Helms Amendment. This will help save thousands of lives that are lost to unsafe abortions every year around the world.
On the other hand the Republican platform is the most reactionary ever when it comes to women’s rights. It calls for a virtual ban on abortion including in the case of rape, incest, and health-threatening situations. And it bans funding for Planned Parenthood and all other health facilities that provide abortion services.
Want to know how a Republican administration will impact women’s access to abortion? Just look at Mike Pence’s retrograde record in Indiana. While Trump is quick to talk about punishing women for abortion, Pence has already punished them in his state. He has spearheaded the fight against Planned Parenthood and closed clinics. He even signed a law requiring women to hold funerals for fetuses after miscarriage or abortion.
When it comes to women’s right to access abortion and other reproductive services abroad, there is no debate who will be a better option. As President, Hillary Clinton will continue to empower women and girls as she has for her entire career. Trump and Pence will spell disaster.
Contraceptive access matters more than ever. The United States is the biggest family planning funder – in total dollars – in the world. Our support is crucial for organizations like the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to do the valuable work of providing women with access to modern and effective contraception, sex education and life-saving medical examinations. UNFPA works in more than 150 countries to decrease unplanned pregnancies, eliminate forced early marriage, end harmful practices like Female Genital Mutilation, prevent and treat obstetric fistula, and respond to the needs of women in crisis situations like refugee camps in Jordan and the Zika outbreak in Latin America. But the organization is facing a funding shortfall for contraceptive supplies that threatens to create a public health crisis for many countries that depend on us for support.
How is this related to our elections, you say?
Secretary Hillary Clinton has been a consistent supporter of contraceptive access and women’s empowerment around the world. As First Lady, she spoke at the International Conference on Women in China and provided its most memorable moment when she said that “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.” In the Senate, she helped lead efforts to expand access to contraception at home and abroad. As Secretary of State, she continued to call for improving the full range of reproductive health care throughout the world.
Donald Trump and Mike Pence however, have made it clear that their only interest in reproductive rights is undermining them. Trump has called for reducing contributions to overseas development and Pence has built his career on opposing family planning programs wherever he sees them. As a member of Congress, he was the instigator of the ongoing effort to close down Planned Parenthood clinics and supported legislation to gut family planning aid for low-income women in the United States and around the world.
As Governor of Indiana, he has promoted laws to punish and humiliate women seeking abortion, and almost single-handedly created an HIV outbreak in his state when he redirected prevention funding.
“Condoms are very very poor protection against sexually transmitted disease,” Pence has said.
We can’t let Trump/Pence win. This is an election like no other. The outcome of this election matters for women, the LGBT community, people of color, immigrants, first generations- every single American- but it also matters for people around the world, especially the most marginalized women in impoverished communities. We cannot idly watch as their rights are further chipped off. We cannot contribute to their misery by electing officials who have no regard for their health and rights. We have to take a stand- for ourselves and those around the world whose lives will be impacted by our governmental officials.