Trump’s Global Gag Rule Increases Maternal Mortality

By Marcella Cage, Advocacy Fellow

Every 8 minutes a woman in a developing country dies from complications relating to an unsafe abortion. Unsafe abortion continues to be a major cause of maternal mortality, accounting globally for 8 to 11 percent of all maternal deaths. Past implementations of the Global Gag Rule have proven that restricting family planning funding to organizations that agree to comply with the cruel policy only increases the number of unsafe abortions. In light of Mother’s Day and National Women’s Health Week, I want put the spotlight on how the Global Gag Rule will cause maternal mortality to rise worldwide.

Trump’s Global Gag Rule impacts $8.8 billion in foreign aid — its reach has expanded to affect all global health assistance, even that having nothing to do with family planning or abortion. This deadly policy prohibits funding to foreign health organizations that provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortion, or that advocate for access to abortion in their own countries. By defunding health organizations that provide family planning, post-abortion care, HIV testing and treatment, malaria prevention and treatment, cervical cancer screenings, and other vital services, maternal mortality rates will rise.

Globally, there are approximately 99 million unintended pregnancies and 25 million unsafe abortions every year. Complications from unsafe abortion are a leading cause of the estimated 303,000 annual pregnancy-related deaths.” Under Trump’s Global Gag Rule, organizations that receive U.S. health assistance are not even allowed to discuss the health risks of unsafe abortion with their patients.

Trump’s Global Gag Rule does not prevent abortion or protect life — it kills women.

Abortions that are performed in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy have a very low risk of complications, in fact, there is  higher chance of being struck by lightning than dying from an abortion. Having an abortion is safer than childbirth or surgery to remove wisdom teeth. So, how does such a low-risk procedure become so lethal to women when it’s “unsafe”?

Restricting abortion access doesn’t make it any less common, but it does make it less safe. In countries or rural regions where safe abortion is not accessible, individuals seeking abortion often jeopardize their health, and even their lives, by using dangerous methods to terminate unwanted pregnancies — methods such as drinking toxic fluids (e.g. turpentine or bleach), placing foreign objects into the uterus, inflicting blunt trauma to the abdomen, and inserting inappropriate medication into the vagina or rectum. Unlicensed or “back-alley” abortion providers often work in unhygienic settings with insufficient tools and/or skills, causing uterine perforations and infections. Consequently, nearly 7 million women who undergo unsafe abortions seek medical attention each year, and at least 22,800 women — and up to 31,000 — die.

A key contributor to the high rate of unsafe abortions is the unacceptably high unmet need for family planning — 214 million women in developing countries don’t want to get pregnant but aren’t using any modern method of birth control. Without U.S. funding, organizations in some of the world’s poorest countries will be forced to close their doors, hindering the global progress made toward reducing unintended pregnancy and maternal mortality.

Nepal, a country that legalized abortion to help decrease its high maternal mortality rate, has been hit hard by Trump’s Global Gag Rule. Clinics there lost $26 million in critical U.S. funding this year, causing many to close.

It is time to stop letting tens of thousands of women die each year from preventable causes related to unsafe abortions. Help save lives around the world by permanently repealing Trump’s deadly Global Gag Rule — find out how with our resistance toolkit!

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