Baroness Barker: Trump and his hateful eight are condemning women worldwide
President Trump's version of this historical Republican policy is bigger and more insidious, plunging charities in Nepal and Sub-Saharan Africa into despair, says Baroness Barker.
So egregious is the Trump administration that it is difficult to focus one’s anger and start to plan a fightback. The thing which spurred me on was that photograph of Trump and a bunch of old white men – the hateful eight – signing the executive order for the global gag. At the stroke of a pen, a bunch of billionaires condemned women and girls all over the world to misery, illness and, in many cases, death.
The policy originated in 1984 under Reagan and was reinstituted under both Bush governments, all three Republicans. The policy in the past required non-US NGOs to certify that they would not “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning” (an anti-abortion lobby standard line), even with non-US funds, as a condition for receiving USAID global family planning assistance
The Trump version of the policy of 23 January 2017 is, predictably, bigger and more insidious. NGOs who are receiving any US global health assistance will have to sign the Gag Rule, including those running HIV programmes, maternal and child health programmes, infectious diseases programmes, or those dealing with Zika virus – as well as family planning programmes. Moreover, it applies whether the funds come from USAID, as in the past, or from any US government agency or department.
The policy applies to international and regional NGOs based outside the USA, and local NGOs in countries who receive US funding for family planning or other global health assistance. US NGOs are not directly subject to the Gag Rule, but they must agree to ensure that they do not provide family planning assistance to any foreign NGO sub-recipients unless those sub-recipients have first certified adherence to the policy. If they don't sign, they will lose the funding.
Already people responsible for public health in places such as Nepal and sub-Saharan Africa are in despair. Marie Stopes International cannot not agree to the conditions of this policy and will therefore no longer be eligible to receive USAID funding. Based on stats about the effectiveness of programmes run under the Obama administration, and the effect on women’s health when George W Bush reinstated the policy. Marie Stopes will be prevented from reaching 1.5 million women each year. This will result in: 6.5 million unintended pregnancies; 2.2 million abortions; 2.1 million unsafe abortions and 21,700 maternal deaths
The Government of the Netherlands has already agreed to realign its aid funding to address the deficit in maternal health care. I, along with Liberal Democrat colleagues and women from other parties are urging the Theresa May to stop fawning over the misogynist in chief and start protecting the safety and well-being of women and girls.
When Trump comes to London let’s do the thing he hates most – ignore him. No demonstrations, no receptions, just lots of donations to International Planned Parenthood Federation, Marie Stopes International and the other heroes who really care about women.
Baroness Barker is a Liberal Democrat peer in the House of Lords