FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - March 2, 2018
[New York] – Today marks the one-year anniversary of the day when governments all over the world came together and created the She Decides initiative to combat the impact of the Trump administration’s expanded Global Gag Rule. She Decides has raised over $450 million to date to support women’s sexual health and reproductive rights, however estimates show that the Gag Rule may impact over $2.2 billion in funding per year.
A recent World Health Organization study showed that there are nearly 25 million unsafe abortions performed globally in any given year. Restrictions on abortion funding and services do not reduce abortion rates, but they do result in an increase in unsafe abortions. Marie Stopes International has estimated that 2.5 million unintended pregnancies, 870,000 unsafe abortions, and 6,900 avoidable maternal deaths will occur as a result of funding cuts from the Gag Rule.
“This Administration may bumble and flail when it comes to a variety of issues—but it has had a razor focus on ensuring that where it can, it will suppress abortion services, as well as information and speech about abortion,” says Akila Radhakrishnan, President (acting) of the Global Justice Center (GJC). “These restrictions are not only dangerous, they are also illegal. Abortion is a protected and fundamental right under international human rights and humanitarian law. For example, today there is a growing consensus that abortion is protected medical care under international humanitarian law and that as such, abortion services cannot be denied to rape victims in conflict for any reason, including donor restrictions. It is incredibly important to adhere to binding law, not politics, when it comes to women’s health and rights.”
The Gag Rule is imposed on top of congressional restrictions on foreign assistance, including the Helms and Siljander Amendments, which not only prohibit the provision of abortion services with US funds, but also restrict abortion related speech including advocacy, research, recommendations and medical information that doctors can provide to their patients. Combined, these US policies create a chilling effect that frequently acts as a blanket ban on abortion speech around the world.
“While the work of She Decides is incredibly commendable, at GJC we hope for the day when it is no longer necessary,” continues Radhakrishnan. ‘The only way to ensure that women and girls around the world receive the necessary medical care they are entitled to is for the US to repeal the Gag Rule and the congressional restrictions on funding. It is long past time that US brought itself into compliance with international law when it comes to the health and lives of women and girls around the world.” With every day that the US violates these fundamental rights, more women are dying.
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