We all have reasons to fear what President Donald Trump will do to reproductive health care in the United States. Trump has said he will give “some form of punishment” for anyone who has an abortion. He has further signaled that he will defund Planned Parenthood. Finally, he has promised a Supreme Court justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade “automatically.”
Although we at Ohio State should be concerned about what Trump plans do to reproductive health care here in Ohio, we should also be horrified by what he has already done to reproductive health care and family planning services around the world.
Just days into his presidency, Trump imposed a radically expanded version of the “global gag rule.” This deeply cruel and dangerous policy cuts off funding to foreign health organizations that use their own independent money to do abortion-related work or advocacy. Supporters of the “global gag rule” claim they want to reduce the number of abortions, but report after report has found that the “global gag rule” does the opposite. Under President George W. Bush’s version of the “global gag rule,” studies showed a steady increase in abortions in sub-Saharan Africa.
Organizing against the expanded “global gag rule” is urgent. Feminists in the United States need to stand in solidarity with feminists around the world who deserve to be in control of their reproductive lives. All people deserve access to contraception and abortion, as well as the right to have children. Reproductive justice includes opposing forced sterilization and population control efforts that have historically targeted women of color and people with disabilities.
The new version of the “global gag rule” means millions more individuals will be unable to access even the most basic reproductive health care. The result of this policy will be more unwanted pregnancies, more individuals turning to unsafe abortion services and many preventable deaths.
We must believe that anti-reproductive health policies that Trump and Vice President Mike Pence attempt to impose overseas will be coming here to the United States next. In fact, those policies are already here. In Ohio, new laws restricting funding for reproductive health organizations are based on the expanded “global gag rule.” A transnational feminist movement against the “global gag rule” is not one-way advocacy; it means building relationships of solidarity that are in the best interest of feminists in the United States as well.
Studies show that when individuals can make their own family planning decisions their finances, health and overall well-being improve. Current U.S. funding for family planning services abroad has prevented more than 2 million abortions and averted 12,000 maternal deaths. Every $10 million cut to family planning support results in 39,000 more abortions and 200 more maternal deaths. If we want to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, we should invest more, not less, into international family planning.
A feminist movement for reproductive justice must be an international struggle. Our activism must be rooted in the idea of bodily autonomy and come out of a deep understanding of how racism, transphobia, settler-colonialism, ableism and heteropatriarchy impact our reproductive lives. We cannot afford to downplay the “global gag rule,” or our responsibility to act against it. Our time to act is now, and this is where we begin.
Second-year in political science and women’s, gender and sexuality studies
Doctoral student in women’s, gender and sexuality studies