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Trump Policy Raising Abortion Rates Abroad, Coming Soon to the U.S.

Woman holding sign that says, "Ugh, where do I even start?"

Welcome to The Week in Reproductive Justice, a weekly recap of all news related to the hot-button issue of what lawmakers are allowing women to do with their bodies!

Surprisingly enough, this week in reproductive rights was quiet in the realm of state legislatures, which have spent the past few weeks trying to ban abortion as early as possible. But in terms of groundbreaking studies, updates on the Trump administration’s decision to cut Planned Parenthood funding, and an impending major vote on abortion in Ireland, this week has hardly lacked for big news.

Trump’s ban on global abortion funding already leading to more abortions

If you can believe it, ever since President Trump’s decision to prohibit funding for groups around the globe that offer literally just information about abortion, the abortion rate is on the rise in affected countries—mostly because this policy effectively limits organizations’ ability to offer information or access to birth control and sexual health education. According to the new report, this is a key reason that “backstreet” or unsafe abortions are occurring at a higher rate in countries like Kenya, since the executive order from Trump in January 2017.

Just earlier this year, another study revealed that in countries where abortion is severely restricted, it continues to take place at a similar rate to countries where it is less restricted, with the caveat that unsafe abortions are exponentially more likely. In essence, increased access to birth control and sexual health education—the very resources that this U.S. presidential administration is making increasingly difficult to access—and not abortion regulations will prevent abortions from taking place. Anything else is not only dangerous and degrading to women and girls around the world, but also counterproductive to what should be a universal goal of preventing unwanted pregnancy.

President Trump formally introduces funding cut, domestic gag rule for Planned Parenthood

After weeks of speculation, President Trump on Tuesday finally formally discussed his intention to propose a new rule that, according to NBC, “would require facilities receiving federal family planning funds to be physically separate from those that perform abortion; would eliminate the requirement that women with unintended pregnancies be counseled on their full range of reproductive options; and would ban abortion referrals.” In other words, this administration’s next move is to cut funding to Planned Parenthood and other groups that offer abortion services, and also promote censorship by health care workers about abortion.

In other words, Planned Parenthood would lose the Title X funding, through which it offers sexual health education and birth control access to millions of predominantly low-income patients. Forty percent of the 4 million patients who rely on Title X receive care from Planned Parenthood. There’s obviously no shame in offering abortion services, but the organization’s opponents should be aware that abortion care makes up a distinct minority of the services Planned Parenthood provides. Denying it the funding to offer the very services that actually prevent abortion would almost certainly increase the national abortion rate.

In addition, due to the Hyde amendment, federal funding cannot pay for abortions, with severely limited exceptions that disproportionately affect low-income women and women of color. Stripping the organization of federal funding for providing this service is not only highly dangerous, but also redundant.

The policy this administration is planning to roll out would also negate health care providers’ obligation to tell women about abortion—something that really shouldn’t be political, seeing as abortion is a legal, safe medical service, and women seeking to make decisions about their bodies must have all the relevant information to do so. These rules treat abortion as if it’s somehow different from all other situational medical services, when it’s just as legal and just as necessary. As for what happens next, a final version of this proposal is still in the works as of this week, but the president has made it clear that ahead of key midterm elections, and in consideration of the critical nature of this issue to the GOP base, Trump has every intention to move forward.

Ireland to partake in historic referendum to legalize abortion

On Friday, Ireland will vote on a referendum to legalize abortion through 12 weeks of pregnancy, repealing their 8th amendment, which has banned abortion for decades. The procedure has been illegal in Ireland since the 19th century and is currently punishable with up to 14 years in prison. The decision to hold a referendum came with a shift toward more liberal policies and takes place under the leadership of the country’s first openly gay prime minister.

Ahead of the vote, there is no clear consensus, with polling indicating a tight race. This week, the news cycle has been dominated by the stories of women forced to travel out of country for the procedure—an expensive and highly burdensome feat—as well as women who have lost their lives by being denied safe, legal access. We’re also hearing news of Irish voters returning from abroad just to partake in the referendum.

The vote is nothing short of historic, with a number of key factors such as fake news, technology, and the Catholic Church sure to play huge roles.

Tune in next week to see what lawmakers will try next in their never-ending mission to derail reproductive justice!

(image: Avivi Aharon / Shutterstock.com)

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