Modern contraception is indisputably one of the most transformative inventions of the twentieth century. Family planning has allowed people to gain control over their lives, giving them to ability to advance their education, pursue careers, and decide if and when to have children. This has led to vast social progress, increased stability for families and communities all over the world, and drastically improved health outcomes for women and children. The Lancet estimates that global maternal mortality would be 1.8 times higher today if contraception wasn’t available.
This World Contraception Day, we recognize both the mass movements of improved gender equality and the individual stories of the life-changing benefits of family planning.
For example, Mercy, pictured above, is a 19-year-old single mother of a two-year-old girl and lives in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. She accesses reproductive health services at the Family Health Options (FHOK) Kibera clinic.
“I use the implant. For five years. So by that time, my daughter will have grown a little bit… [In] five years, I will come again and I replace it. I don’t want to have many children, and [struggle] with education [and] feeding them. I want to be a responsible mother in future.”
“[I seek family planning services so] that my daughter can have the best. Not like me. And when she grows up, I will introduce her to family planning.”
Trump’s Global Gag Rule, which withholds U.S. funding from any foreign organization that mentions abortion, limits access to contraception for thousands of people like Mercy. Many organizations are faced with an impossible choice to either sign the Global Gag Rule and stop providing and advocating for essential reproductive health services, or refuse to sign and lose significant funding, limiting service provision. FHOK has provided more than 12 million services since 2009 to reduce the unmet need for contraceptives, but has lost half its budget by refusing to sign the Global Gag Rule. Trump’s attack on reproductive rights has forced FHOK to close two of its fourteen clinics and eliminate essential services.
Mercy explained what life would be like for women if FHOK had to close its Kibera location. “[It] would be] a very bad situation for girls and women like us. School drop-out has been controlled through family planning. Mothers are controlling their births because of family planning. And if that will go away, it will be a big problem. The [birth rate] will increase. Children will grow in a very bad situation.”
Marie Stopes International, which is one of the largest contraceptive providers in the world, lost $80 million in funding by refusing to sign the Global Gag Rule. It projects that the funding gap, if unfilled, will result in 2.5 million unintended pregnancies, 870,000 unsafe abortions, and 6,900 avoidable maternal deaths.
When people lose access to contraception, they experience more unintended pregnancies. The Global Gag Rule paradoxically increases abortion rates, the majority of which will be performed clandestinely and are more likely to result in serious injury of death.
Contraception and abortion access are also at risk here at home. The Domestic Gag Rule would mandate that all clinics that receive Title X funding cannot refer patients for abortion. This would block patient care organizations like Planned Parenthood that serve populations in low-income and rural settings, where there are few to no alternatives for reproductive health care.
In further disturbing and regressive domestic news, Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court may lead to overturning Roe v. Wade. Subsequently, abortion access would be left up to the states. Individuals in conservative states, people of color, and low-income people would be disproportionately affected. In addition, 71% of Americans believe Roe should not be overturned.
Domestic attacks on reproductive health encourage further restrictions abroad. As a leader in family planning, the US has historically paved the way for progressive policies that increase access to reproductive healthcare. The Global Gag Rule changes the rhetoric about abortion by limiting choice and imposing right-wing, conservative morals on the rest of the world. Similarly, US domestic policy serves to further stigmatize sexual and reproductive health abroad.
Join us in support of global access to contraception and abortion for everyone. Use our templates to write an op-ed or letter to the editor. Sign our petition to support the Global HER Act. Find a resistance event near you on September 28 or participate in the 3 hour twitter rally (10 am to 1 pm in your time zone).