Recent weeks have seen major setbacks for sexual and reproductive health and rights, as America ended funding for a critical United Nations program and
Human Rights Watch is calling on governments around the world to pledge political and financial support for sexual and reproductive health to counter the United States’ “Global Gag Rule” but the second time in three years, UN member states failed to agree on goals for the Commission on Population and Development to promote responsible sexual and reproductive decisions.
The Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Sweden hosted a summit in Brussels to strengthen support for the “She Decides” funding initiative, which will support organizations affected by US restrictions and resulting cuts.
The United States announced an end to its $32.5 million funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in collusion with conservative countries that have sought to undermine reproductive rights.
On his first full day in office, President Donald Trump issued an expanded “Global Gag Rule,” or “Mexico City Policy,” which strips foreign nongovernmental organizations of all US health funding if they use funds from any source to offer information about abortions, provide abortions, or advocate liberalizing abortion laws.
Federal law previously prohibited using US funds for abortion in foreign family planning assistance but the new order extends the restriction on funding to any group that shares information about ending a pregnancy.
Abortion is not only legal in the United States, it is a right the Supreme Court has ruled to be protected by the Constitution.
“Women and girls have a fundamental right to decide freely and for themselves whether, when and how many children they have,” said Lisa McCormick, a women’s rights advocate. “She Decides is a new global initiative on sexual health and family planning, that aims to support this fundamental right. It is a response to President Trump’s reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, banning financial support to foreign organisations that provide access to safe abortion or information about abortion, even if they do so with other than U.S. funding.”
She Decides is seeking financial and political support to ensure full access to sexual health and family planning worldwide.
The main goals of She Decides are to:
- keep health clinics open
- continue providing a full range of sexual and reproductive health services to clients
- continue advocating for law reforms to reduce the number of unsafe abortions
After nearly two weeks of intense negotiations, UN member states failed to agree on an outcome document during the 50th Session of the Commission on Population and Development – the second time in three years.
The United States played a decisive role in the push back against people’s rights to decide freely and responsibly over their sexual and reproductive life.
This will have detrimental effects on global efforts to reduce teenage and unplanned pregnancies, STDs including HIV infections, maternal mortality and unsafe abortions.
McCormick said it is disappointing that Trump does not understand the importance of investing in family planning, modern methods of contraception, comprehensive sexuality education and a listing of sexual and reproductive health services – including safe and legal abortion.
“These human rights issues have a tremendous influence on our long term prospects for peace,” said McCormick. “Shutting them down is not just penny wise and pound foolish, it is destructive and dangerous.”
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