By Sola Ogundipe
THE Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria, NRHJN, has objected to the expanded Global Gag Rule (GGR) also known as the Mexico City Policy, reinstated by US President, Donald Trump in 2017.
Stating its position in a communique issued in Ibadan, Oyo State, at the end of a strategic meeting and training workshop, the Network which is advocating for Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) issues and policies, urged the Federal Government to respond to the GGR by investing more in health and taking advantage of family planning as a development strategy towards saving billions in scarce resources and reducing poverty.
Observing that the Trump administration’s version of the gag rule portends adverse consequences and devastating effects on the health of women and girls in Nigeria and the developing world as a whole, the NRHJN noted that as a consequence of the gag rule, more Nigerian women are losing access to contraception even as more incidences of unintended and unwanted pregnancies, abortions and unsafe abortions and deaths are being recorded.
The GGR is an Executive Order introduced by former President Ronald Reagan in 1984, to ban US funding of international health organisations that offer abortions – even if the US is not paying for the abortions or related services.
The GGR cuts off US. government aid to health agencies that offer or mention abortion services and has been enforced by every Republican president since Reagan.
On the flip side, every Democratic administration up to Obama has rescinded the gag rule.
In reinstating the gag rule, the Trump administration expanded the scope and cut funding to the tune of $9 billion to groups that offer vital health care services linked to abortion; allied reproductive health services including family planning, care and support for STIs such as HIV/AIDS, etc., in developing countries including Nigeria.
According to the NRHJN: “Federal government should utilise monies recovered from corrupt persons in providing access to healthcare, especially at the grassroots for women and children.
“Government at the Federal and State levels should be more committed to protecting women’s health and promoting the rights issue, while appreciating that putting money into health and human infrastructure is an investment not expenditure
“Government should be more committed and responsive towards issues concerning women by providing accessible and affordable contraceptive services in the country.”
Observing that the state of reproductive health and rights in the country is below acceptable standard, the Network said government at the Federal and state levels could do better that it is doing currently to improve the situation.
“Nigeria is in a demographic crisis as a result of poor investment in family planning tools/services and health infrastructure.
“State governments have abandoned their responsibility especially as it involves the provision of Primary Health Care services, leaving this burden to the Federal Government despite the fact that health care falls under the concurrent list of the 1999 constitution as amended.
“Worse still, women have been denied access to contraceptive services which is a breach of their fundamental human rights.”
Regretting the poor state of health facilities around the country and the huge economic burden imposed on Nigerians when seeking healthcare, the Network frowns at the low use of modern contraceptives which has resulted in a large population burden and has led to a strain on development and allocation of resources.
The Network urges religious and traditional leaders to help debunk myths and misconceptions around family planning while promoting its acceptance.
Advocates of Sexual & Reproductive Health say that effects of the gag rule go beyond abortion as it prevents the realisation of women’s basic reproductive health and rights.
They argue that the gag ruke is central to sexual and reproductive health and rights issues worldwide and say it is promoting inequalities in access to crucial care and support services as well as widening other existing social, racial, political, institutional and gender gaps.