People don’t stop needing sexual and reproductive health care during a pandemic.
These services are as necessary as ever. However, Republican leaders in the United States are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to restrict access to abortion, ignoring advice from mainstream medical groups in order to push their anti-choice agenda.
These attacks on reproductive health and rights are unconscionable, but not surprising, given the Trump administration’s history of ignoring medical expertise in order to restrict access to abortion worldwide. In imposing the Global Gag Rule and blocking funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Trump caused a global public health crisis—years before COVID-19—by devastating access to comprehensive health care services around the world.
Now, in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, Trump’s terrible reproductive health policies are making an already dire situation even worse. COVID-19 is exacerbating the existing impacts of the Global Gag Rule and, in turn, the Global Gag Rule is exacerbating the impacts of COVID-19. The Global Gag Rule has forced countless clinics to cut services or close completely. This has left many communities without access to health care at a time when such access is crucial for treating patients infected with coronavirus and stopping the spread of the disease.
As the current pandemic disrupts health care systems already strained by the effects of the Global Gag Rule, health care professionals in developing countries who are overwhelmed with cases of COVID-19 will likely be forced to deprioritize maternal health, family planning, and abortion services. As these services are scaled back to focus on responding to COVID-19, people will be forced to forgo reproductive health care, putting their lives at risk.
Marginalized people, including women and girls, LGBTQ+ individuals, and rural, low-income, and indigenous communities, have always been most hurt by the Global Gag Rule, as they have traditionally struggled to access comprehensive and competent care and are the first to lose access when clinics close or reproductive health care services are cut. This unjust dynamic has only been made worse by the current crisis, leaving these communities without the resources they need during coronavirus outbreaks.
Trump’s refusal to fund UNFPA—which works in over 150 countries to provide maternal and reproductive health services and prevent gender-based violence—has also had increasingly devastating results during the pandemic. UNFPA works on the ground supporting health systems and health care workers in vulnerable settings. Disruptions in the supply chain for medical supplies due to COVID-19 have made it more difficult for UNFPA to provide contraception and life-saving maternal health medicine and supplies.
UNFPA also works in disaster and crisis settings to ensure that those who are vulnerable and most in need of humanitarian assistance are able to receive care. The agency has identified nearly 48 million women and girls who need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2020, and who will be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 outbreaks. Without robust, continued funding, UNFPA will not be able to effectively implement its COVID-19 interventions and already-vulnerable populations will suffer.
No one should lack access to health care during this unprecedented health crisis. The coronavirus outbreak has highlighted the many ways that Trump and his GOP cronies have failed to protect people. From their anti-abortion policies, both at home and abroad, to their delayed and inept response to the current health crisis, it is clear that these officials do not prioritize our health and lives, nor do they work for our best interests.
It’s time to stand up to these anti-choice demagogues. Even from home, there are ways to take action! Call on Congress to support the Global HER Act to repeal Trump’s Global Gag Rule. Ending this terrible, anti-choice, anti-health policy is vital to mitigating the harm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s critical that we continue to #Fight4HER and support reproductive health and rights for all!