Standing with Every Woman, Everywhere

By Betsy McCallon, CEO White Ribbon Alliance

White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) is committed to ensuring every woman’s right to safe and healthy pregnancy and childbirth. That includes supporting women’s decisions about if, when, and how many children to have. We are therefore alarmed and concerned about policies — already enacted, and up for consideration — from the Trump administration.

Just three days after his swearing in, President Trump signed the Presidential Memorandum Regarding the Mexico City Policy. The policy, commonly referred to as the Global Gag Rule, denies foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from receiving U.S. government global health assistance — even if they use their own funds — to provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or to advocate for the legalization of abortion. Global health assistance includes funding for maternal and child health, HIV, TB, malaria and Zika prevention and treatment.

Regardless of one’s personal views on abortion, this policy affects the whole of women’s health around the world. It directly impacts WRA’s local partners who are working to ensure the 222 million women worldwide who currently do not have access to contraception to plan their families. It impacts their work to prevent the estimated 22,000 women who die, and another 8.4 million who suffer serious illness or injury, after undergoing unsafe abortion. Further, previous iterations of the policy, which were much narrower in scope, resulted in cutbacks and clinic closures, layoffs of health care professionals, shortages of contraceptives, and an increased rate of abortion.

President Trump is also considering issuing an Executive Order calling for “at least a 40 percent overall decrease” in funding for international organizations, and changing the UN funding system from assessed to voluntary contributions. Among other vital outcomes — including coordinating response to global health emergencies like the recent Zika outbreak and vaccinating children to protect them from deadly diseases — this funding promotes improved maternal health, and according to the United Nations, is helping save 30 million lives. With the total U.S. Foreign Assistance budget being less than 1% of its entire budget — and global health funding a fraction of that — the cruel irony is that cutting this funding will hurt many more women and their families much more than it will help buttress U.S. coffers.

For decades the U.S., under both Democratic and Republican Party leadership, has been a leader in global health. The commitment to evidence-based policies and interventions has contributed dramatically to reductions in the number of women dying in childbirth from preventable causes. This has been a hallmark of the U.S. leadership position in the world and these investments have clear links to U.S. priorities including national security and economic growth. These new policies have the potential to reverse decades of progress to reduce preventable maternal deaths and set health systems — and therefore countries — back.

We call on President Trump to continue in the great American tradition of active, thoughtful engagement in advancing women’s and children’s health and well-being around the globe and showing compassion for the world’s most vulnerable among us.

But it doesn’t stop with President Trump. White Ribbon Alliance is an organization whose core approach is supporting citizens holding their governments accountable for the change they want to see. The campaigns of WRA’s 14 National Alliances around the world have brought about country-level, systematic solutions for generations to come. We’ve seen the power of people demanding to be heard, and call on everyone to play their part, to advocate, support and fund the important work for every woman, everywhere.

Donate to White Ribbon Alliance and help protect and promote women’s health around the world. White Ribbon Alliance unites citizens to demand the right to a safe birth for every woman, everywhere. We harness the power of local women and men to achieve lasting change. Our approach is working. Subscribe to WRA Voices and follow WRA on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about the work White Ribbon Alliance does around the world.