Sunday, May 2, 2021

United States ideologies on abortion is also affecting US healthcare aid overseas

Copper IntraUterine Device. Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

The United States is one of the – probably the largest – source of non-military and healthcare aid for many countries. US aid agencies spends a lot of money on non-glamorous areas like healthcare, women, and child welfare etc. This amount is crucial for many NGOs and other agencies which are working in those counties; where either their own government do not have the capability or have other priorities.

As a donor nation, US imposes conditions on how the recipients are spending the money. That is expected. It is the right of donor nations to make sure that their money was spent on what it meant for.  The problem comes when donor nations impose their ideology on those conditions. In this case, US conservative ideologies on abortion is creating problems in donor nations. 

One such policy known as Mexico City Policy,

"…required foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to certify that they would not “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning” using funds from any source (including non-U.S. funds) as a condition of receiving U.S. government global family planning funding. President Trump reinstated the policy but also significantly expanded it to encompass the vast majority of U.S. bilateral global health assistance."

  • providing advice and information about and offering referral for abortion – where legal – as part of the full range of family planning options,
  • promoting changes in a country’s laws or policies related to abortion as a method of family planning (i.e., engaging in lobbying), and
  • conducting public information campaigns about abortion as a method of family planning.”

When Biden came to power, he repealed the policy. However, a lot of restrictions are still there. One such rule is known as Helms Amendment (enacted in 1973),

“still forbids U.S. foreign aid from going toward “abortion as a method of family planning” or to entities that “motivate or coerce any person to practice abortion.” The policy intends to prevent U.S. taxpayer money from being used to perform abortions overseas, but in practice, it also stops organizations from providing related services, including counseling and… post-abortion care.

“According to Asma Balal, the country director for the Marie Stopes Society Pakistan, in the past, the organization couldn’t use U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) money to procure misoprostol or manual vacuum aspiration kits for treating women seeking treatment for botched abortions. “Post-abortion care is a lifesaving service. But we were not even allowed to provide that,” Balal said.” - Foreign Policy

In a lot of third-world countries, women often do not have access to modern contraception mechanisms or family planning methods. Hence many of them ended up having unwanted pregnancies. When income is less and has a lot of mouths to feed, the only way to end an unwanted pregnancy is abortion. If these women do not have access to safe abortion facilities, then they may turn to unsafe ones which may even take their life. 

If the US could set aside their ideologies from these aids; then it would certainly make life easier for a lot of women in third world counties. 

Mexico City policy, in the last five decades, was repealed by every Democratic administration and brought back by every Republican administration. The last administration, in fact, expanded the scope. Hence there is a chance that the next Republican administration will bring it back.

NGOs that receive money cannot work in that way – four years on and four years off. Funds available during democratic administration and missing during republican administration. What more, the conditions like “using funds from any source (including non-U.S. funds)” creates a lot of problems for them. 

My request to US Congress and administration (current and future) is to repeal Helms Amendment and Mexico policy permanently. One can place restrictions like, selective abortion of girls after determining the gender etc. which are truly against humanity; but do not put restrictions that affect women from third world countries - who hardly have any access to family planning, contraception measures, and post-abortion care.


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