Lynne Featherstone calls on UK Government to support Women’s Health Fund to replace funds lost by Trump’s abortion gag rule

I have felt sick to the stomach virtually every day this week as new pronouncements come from the new US President. Already he’s damaged our planet by authorising new pipelines, promised to reinstate torture and proclaimed that he’s going to build that wall no matter what.

For me, though, the worst was the distasteful image of a man who has gloated about sexually assaulting women sitting, surrounded by men, signing an executive order which will ensure that vulnerable women lose their lives. He has reinstated the “global gag rule” on abortion which means that no US funds can go to organisations which provide abortion services. No US money pays for abortion services, but no organisation can receive funds for its other programmes.

The impact of this on Africa is highlighted by this Washington Post article:

In Kenya, public health experts raised immediate concerns about the new policy. Women here often resort to dangerous methods to end their pregnancies, including drinking battery acid and using wire coat hangers. In parts of rural Kenya, young women have hired local healers to stomp on their stomachs until the pregnancy is deemed over.

“Trump’s policy means even fewer services will be offered,” said Chimaraoke Izugbara, a researcher at the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) in Nairobi. “Some women will not be reached, and providers may not be available to offer services. I think we are headed to a major disaster.”

Nearly 8,000 women in Kenya die every year from complications caused by pregnancy and childbirth. At least a fifth of those deaths are caused by self-induced abortions, according to Izugbara.

However, Dutch trade and development minister Lilianne Ploumen has a solution:

Minister Ploumen said that the Trump administration’s decision risked undermining recent advances in women’s health.

“We must not let this happen,” she said.

“We need to compensate for this financial blow as much as possible, with a broad-based fund – which governments, businesses and civil society organisations can donate to – so that women can remain in control of their own bodies.”

Our  former International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone called on our Government to support the Dutch initiative.

This is a deeply damaging act by the new US President, and shows just how unwilling he is to look at the facts around the importance of women’s reproductive health.

I praise this announcement by Lilianne Ploumen in the Dutch government, and call on our Prime Minister to commit to supporting this initiative to ensure that no women face the negative consequences of Trump’s antiquated and oppressive views.

Trump’s move is nothing new. The global gag rule was in place during the administrations of Reagan and George W Bush. However, those were 36 and 16 years ago. Society has moved on since then and there is greater international understanding about how these issues affect women and greater willingness to do something about them. It’s time for the rest of the international community who cares about these things to step up. In doing so, they will save women’s lives.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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One Comment

  • Richard Underhill 27th Jan '17 - 7:56pm

    The Guardian of Friday 27/1/2017 has a report on page one column five and page eighteen columns one to four about abortion in Northern Ireland and the granting of a judicial review affecting a pregnant child and her mother.
    Northern Ireland was not part of the private members bill that David Steel MP brought with support from Home Secretary Roy Jenkins. The internet and other changes of technology affect the case.

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