February 12, 2018

Family planning advocates task FG on Global Gag Rule

Family planning advocates task FG on Global Gag Rule

Pregnant women in low-income countries lack access to family planning, antenatal care and skilled birth attendance, amongst others.

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  Ibadan, Oyo State, at the end of a strategic meeting and training workshop, the network which is advocating 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,  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 On the flip side, every Democratic administration up to Obama has rescinded the gag rule.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 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.

“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 sexual reproductive health and rights  in the country is below acceptable standard, the network stated: “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.”

Advocates of SRHR  argue that the gag rule 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.