Trump's decision to deny US funding to foreign NGOs will affect women in India
According to the IPAS Development Foundation (IDF), ten women die in India every day due to unsafe abortions and more than 5 million women risk having unsafe abortions this year because of the lack of access to safe abortion services. Photograph: (WION)
In January this year, within days of taking office, US President Donald Trump re-imposed the Global Gag rule, denying US funding to foreign NGOs for abortions. The NGOs that provide information on abortion or give abortion counselling won’t get any financial aid either. This change in order about 8,000 miles away is going to directly hit women in India.
A country trying to make progress when it comes to abortion rights, India will be one of the nations affected due to Trump’s anti-abortion executive order, rural India in particular.
Abortion is legal in India, with nearly 6.8 million abortions reported annually. Research suggests that a significant number of women, mostly in rural India, do not know their rights when it comes to abortion, leading to unsafe terminations of pregnancies.
According to the IPAS Development Foundation (IDF), ten women die in India every day due to unsafe abortions and more than 5 million women risk having unsafe abortions this year because of the lack of access to safe abortion services.
“Despite it being legal, a large number of women are not seeking abortion in safe places. It’s mainly due to three main factors: Firstly, in many cases, there are not many safe abortion providers close to the community. Secondly, Then there is a huge stigma around abortion and finally not many women know that abortion is legal in the country. The global gag rule has a conditionality which does not allow local NGOs from talking about abortion or abortion-related services or even referring to abortion.
"This would be a huge barrier in moving these 5 million abortions to safe abortion services,” says Vinoj Manning, executive director, IDF.
The Mexico City policy or the Global Gag rule was first introduced under Ronald Reagan in 1984 and is a classic example of politics in the US has repercussions around the globe. The rule is solely dependent on the inclination of the US president, repealed when a Democrat is in office and reinstated when Republican comes to power. The last time it was revoked was under the Obama administration in 2009. It meant eight years of a robust support to foreign NGOs.
Abortion is legal in india, with nearly 6.8 million abortions reported annually. Research suggests that a significant number of women, mostly in rural India, do not know their rights when it comes to abortion, leading to unsafe terminations. (WION)
In 2015, United States Agency for International Development, USAID, a major source of US funding for healthcare in India, spent $21 million on family planning and reproductive health services in India. Though the legal status of abortion allows the Indian government to spend on it, a large number of NGOs working in rural India are dependent on the funding from the US.
“The impact of global gag rule in India will be at different levels, starting first at the woman per se. Women who are being contacted and helped by these NGOs will no longer have information or referrals. It will be a big impact on women’s health. At the second level, it is the NGOs themselves that are going to get affected. These NGOs are working towards better maternal and reproductive health services. Now, by banning them from talking about abortion you are inhibiting their scope of work and therefore, the impact they can have on women’s health and reproductive rights.” says Manning.
And it’s not just abortion services that are going to get affected. The fund cut will also affect reproductive health, maternal and child health and HIV services.
“It will affect women in rural India where most of these NGOs are working to do away with the taboo around abortion by providing information and creating awareness. It will also affect other family planning and reproductive health services because the NGOs will have to restrict their activities due to lack of funds,” says Sreedharan Nair, director of external relations, Family Planning Association of India.
Sub-Saharan Africa had reported a higher abortion rate the last time the gag rule was imposed under George W Bush in 2001 because it reduced women’s access to contraception
Advocacy groups fear the gag rule this time will have an even worse impact because Trump has expanded the reach of the rule in his version.
“It’s an infringement on the Indian context itself. In India abortion is legal, in India abortion is hugely needed. Eight per cent of all maternal deaths happen due to abortion and now when US decides that through their funding they will inhibit Indian agencies from doing anything around abortion, it completely restricts and it’s contrary to the Indian rules and philosophies,” Manning says.
Breaking away from an eight-year funding will be a huge setback to several NGOs in India that are working to eradicate the taboo around abortion, on the flip side it might just push India to shell out more for abortion and abortion-related services.