The Pussy Grab Gone Global

Printed in Newcastle Herald on 4th Feb 2017

Does making America great again require restrictions to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR)? Well, President Trump and his posse certainly think so…

Shortly after gaining office, his first three executive orders were to: freeze federal hiring; withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); and reinstate the Mexico City Policy.

Those of a certain political persuasion could certainly muster a good argument for freezing federal hiring and withdrawing from the TPP, but no matter what your politics it would be extremely hard to mount a case for the Mexico City Policy as an integral component to making America great again. It’s a bit of an anomaly unless President Trump’s grand plan is to take his signature pussy grab global!

The Mexico City Policy relates to the United States provision of international family planning assistance and is heavily focused on abortion politics. In order for a foreign non-government organisation (NGO) to be eligible for American federal funding they must not, even with non-American funds, perform, advise on, or endorse abortions as a method of family planning.

This policy has been dubbed the Global Gap Rule, not only does it prevent an international NGO from providing services or advice with non-American funds even when legal within the country they operate, it also prevents them actively participating in the political system and advocating for the legalisation of abortions.

The restrictions imposed by the Mexico City Policy suppress the freedoms of others to engage in public policy debates, undermining America’s own core principle of free and open debate. It’s this unconstitutional behaviour which prevents the restrictions being imposed on their own citizens; hence the policy not applying to American based organizations. Claiming to promote democracy around the world, while imposing a policy which is considered unconstitutional in your own country, could be considered truly American.

One point which needs to be highlighted is the Mexico City Policy is not required to prevent American federal funds being utilised for abortions. The 1973 Helms Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act prevents American federal funding being used for any of the following outside of America – abortion services; biomedical research; and lobbying on abortion (since 1981). Yet it’s argued by certain circles of influence the Helms Amendment is not strong enough and the Mexico City Policy is needed.

President Trump is not the only president with vagina on his mind, though possibly the only one with it in his palm, the governance of the female reproductive system has been of critical importance for every American President since Reagan introduced the Mexico City Policy in 1984. Each new President has made their position on the policy known in their first week in office. Clinton rescinded it, Bush reinstated it, Obama rescinded it, and now Trump has reinstated it.

Being a strong advocate for SRHR and its capacity to lift masses out of poverty, no one could express my feelings on the topic of abortion or President Trump better than Gough Whitlam – “Let me make quite clear that I am for abortion and, in your case Sir, we should make it retrospective.” But as difficult as it will be for some to understand, this is not a debate on abortion. It’s a debate on America’s predatory behaviour that places people at greater risk in order to progress a moral agenda through a policy which is unconstitutional in their own county.

The Mexico City Policy is fraught with unintended consequences. After the Bush administration re-introduced the Mexico City Policy in 2001, it was found abortion rates actually increased in sub-Saharan Africa and in Ghana, and shipments of American donated contraceptives stopped in 16 developing countries. It’s estimated 225 million women worldwide lack access to modern contraception, one of the most important barriers for preventing unwanted pregnancy. American federal funding is a big deal for global SRHR, they give $607.5 Million per year, preventing six million unintended pregnancies, which in-turn averts 2.3 million abortions and 11,000 maternal deaths.

The figures above prove the restrictions imposed by the Mexico City Policy are unable to improve quality of life or reduce global abortions, because they attempt to deal with only a symptom of the greater issue; they do not eliminate women’s need for abortion. These are the figures American policy makers should be paying attention to, not the disproportionate religious voices within their political system.

Although abortion is a last resort for many women, it is a requirement. And it will always remain an important part of providing global SRHR. The provision of SRHR is one of the fastest ways of creating equality of opportunity, allowing people the ability to recognise their unequal potential.

Providing SRHR will unlock the talent which is currently stifled, by allowing girls and women control over the number and spacing of children, education will become more accessible, unlocking employment or business opportunities not currently available to them. This will activate their economies and create a better world for all of us.

So to Trump, Pence and all who champion the Mexico City Policy with vigour, I say ‘go love yourself’. To the rest I say ‘it’s time we look further than government to solve the world’s biggest issues’.

Thanks for reading.

Jacqueline Haines

Founder and CEO Vavven

Vävven believes SRHR is fundamental to global development, equal to those of finance and trade. The denial of SRHR across the world is a human rights problem, but one we champion can be solved within our lifetime.

We’re here to give global support by working with aid organisations that champion Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and raising those awkward conversations closer to home, because we believe equality of opportunity is needed to create lasting change.

About Jacqueline Haines

Social entrepreneur who champions sexual and reproductive health and rights. Founder of Vävven.
2017-02-16T09:29:57+00:00 By |SRHR|

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