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US abortion law is preventing women across the world from achieving gender equality

The global gag rule also known as the Mexico City Act is a piece of legislation that prevents NGOs from receiving USAID funding if they provide abortion services to pregnant women. This act has been expanded by the Trump administration, which has led to a reduction in reproductive healthcare services in around 6 different countries across the global south. This has meant that women across the world have been forced to carry unwanted or non-viable pregnancies to term. This has led to a rise in illegal and dangerous abortions and a number of deaths from complex pregnancies.

Abortion and other reproductive healthcare services like the provision of contraceptives, family planning advice and anti-retroviral drugs and treatments for other STDs; are vital for women everywhere. These vital services give them agency over their bodies and sexuality, abortion ensures that women can remain safe and they are not forced to carry a non-viable pregnancy to term. The removal of USAID to support these services has forced NGOs to choose between providing a fully comprehensive family planning service to women or receiving US funding to continue a reduced number of services for their service users.

One case study that illustrates the impact of the global gag rule is the funding cut in Zambia. The expansion of the global gag rule has severely impacted the Nyangwena health centre in Zambia, as they have had to reduce their family planning services.This is causing worry in the community as there has been an increase in teenage pregnancies, and fewer people testing for sexually tested diseases such as HIV. Projects such as those run by the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia, which distributed condoms throughout the community and provided sex education for teenagers in schools all over the country. These services have reduced HIV rates and given women autonomy over their bodies and sexuality. This is vital in empowering women across the country, so they can make informed choices surrounding their bodies and family. The removal of these services has meant that the health and independence of women across Zambia has been reduced.

The global gag rule has reduced the agency and overall sexual health of women across the world. However it has also reduced treatment for other diseases, such as TB, Malaria and HIV. The expansion of the legislation now means that 9 billion dollars of USAID funding is impacted which has meant that organisations that were previously unaffected, have now had to comply with the legislation. There has been monitoring of the impact of the policy on local organisations in countries like Kenya. However, the US government has done very little to monitor the impact on global health. This piece of legislation will continue to have an ongoing impact on global health and women’s equality and bodily autonomy. This ongoing issue has led the Dutch government to begin finding alternative funding for different groups that have been affected called “She Decides.” While funding alternatives will undoubtedly reduce some of the negative impacts of the legislation on women. It will not remove the restrictions and confusion the law has created, which has severely impacted global health.

The global gag rule is a piece of legislation that has limited women’s access to abortion and family planning services. However, as a result of attacking aid funding it has also reduced funding for other global health issues like TB and HIV. Yet, the biggest impact on the legislation is undoubtedly the way that it has reduced women’s bodily autonomy and their freedom to choose, when and how they would like to begin their family. This choice is a key part of achieving gender equality around the world, and by limiting this the USA has forced many countries to take a backwards step in achieving this goal. This setback is harming the health of women in some of the poorest countries in the world. Denying women their basic right to choose what happens to their own body.

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