Executive action on abortion will have violent consequences

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In recent weeks, President Donald Trump’s executive orders have garnered hours of news coverage and provoked heated debates, but one action is being overlooked, despite the global consequences it will precipitate. On Jan. 23, Trump signed an executive order banning the government from providing any aid to foreign non-governmental organizations that “actively promote” abortion. Every Republican president since Ronald Reagan has implemented this policy, and it has been repealed by every Democratic president since then, reflecting strong party divides. Unfortunately, the emphasis on the political controversy surrounding abortion distracts from the true issue at hand: the lives of people in need around the world.

The implementation of this order, often referred to as the “global gag rule,” means all NGOs that support abortion in any way, including those that merely inform women that abortions are legally available, will no longer receive any aid from the U.S. government. Trump’s order may have even worse consequences than past implementations because this version applies not only to family-planning funds, as past iterations did, but to “global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies.” This is clearly Trump’s attempt to reduce the number of abortions performed in foreign countries. This policy, however, will have the opposite effect.

Marie Stopes International, a British NGO, estimates that the ban will result in 1.5 million women losing access to family-planning services this year, which could cause 2.2 million more abortion procedures during the course of the next four years. Due to the lack of funding for services that help women seek safe abortions, experts predict the policy will cause 2.1 million unsafe abortions and 21,700 maternal deaths. The lack of services can have severe consequences in addition to increasing the number of abortions. By cutting up to $9.5 billion of funding to health-related NGOs around the world annually, this policy will drastically restrict the ability of people in at least 30 countries to get access to health care, increasing the spread of diseases such as Ebola, HIV, malaria and the Zika virus.

Studies conducted on the results of past presidents’ policies foreshadow the disastrous consequences of Trump’s order. A study of President George W. Bush’s policy found that abortion rates increased in sub-Saharan African countries that rely heavily on U.S. aid because of cuts to funding. The number of women in Ghana being treated for complications caused by unsafe abortion also increased by 50 percent.

Though supporters of this policy claim that it is “pro-life,” their argument is clearly mitigated by facts. Not only will this policy fail to reduce the number of abortions performed around the world, but it will also increase the amount of unintentional pregnancies and abortions, including unsafe procedures that endanger the life of the mother. It will also put the general population at risk of contracting potentially deadly diseases, an epidemiological issue that affects everyone in today’s highly interconnected world, regardless of gender, sexuality, nationality or political affiliation. The Trump administration needs to see past political dogma to the truth that this policy puts millions of human lives at risk.

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Madeline is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]