Insights into the “Global Gag Rule”: The Importance of Women’s Health Clinics

Published on January 30, 2017 by BJ Bresson

The importance of health clinics, specifically women’s health clinics, is more prevalent now than ever before. A 30 year old policy has been reinstated in the U.S.A that will potentially have a massive impact on funding for clinics in developing countries and women around the world. We need to take a look at who will really be affected by this regulation and how you can stay informed.

The United States is the largest donor to global health efforts ($3 

billion has been provided through the United States Agency for International Development.) The “Global Gag Rule” prevents medical professionals, who are supported by U.S. funding grants, from even mentioning the option to terminate a pregnancy for women.  Without access to these funds, organisations vital to the health of women could be forced to close their doors. This will leave millions of women without proper medical facilities to seek the help they need.

The Break Down:

  • Abortion is not the only service these clinics provide. In America, only 3% of services rendered at Planned Parenthood facilities are abortions. Taking away these clinics in America, and abroad, could increase the number of serious health issues that may be unrelated to pregnancy. As the World Health Organisation documented, 21.6 million women have unsafe abortions each year, with 18.5 million of them occurring in developing countries — and 47,000 of those women die from those unsafe abortions annually.
  • Countries in Africa rely heavily on American funding for their clinics to provide vital health services like pap smears, breast examinations, STI testing and treatments, pregnancy care, mental health treatment etc.
  • Access to contraceptives and barriers that increase safety will be restricted. After the rule was reinstated in 2001 (after having been repealed) America’s shipments of donated condoms and contraceptives to 16 developing countries were stopped completely; mainly Africa, where more than 4 in 10 new infections of HIV/AIDS are among young women aged 15-24.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In Canada there are 49 health clinics specific to women’s needs. If any number of those 49 were to suddenly have their funding cut and cease operation it would leave many women without easy access to medical assistance. The concern is that this is likely to happen in other parts of the world.

How You Can Help:

  • Educate yourself. Books, podcasts, documentaries on the topic can be a great help when you want to get more information.
  • Share your stories about how a visit to a clinic has helped you. Sometimes one story is all a person needs to feel like they’re not alone in the world. Your story could inspire hope in others.
  • Donate your time and, if able, money. Joining peaceful marches in your hometown is a way to show solidarity for women worldwide. If you are able, donate any amount of money to organisations like Canadian Foundation for Women's Health that encourage the advancement of women’s health in Canada and around the world.

Healthcare providers have an obligation to provide unbiased information and education to patients about every aspect of their health; we are all human beings and deserve the best quality, informed, healthcare that can be provided to us.

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