06 Apr CAN YOU HEAR US NOW?
The topic of abortion rights seems to fade in and out of public consciousness every few years. Recently it was as the result of the repeal of the “global gag order” by the Biden Administration. Only with a threat to the legal sanctity comes the uproar, but the legality should not be our lone concern. Where do we draw the line between liberty and accessibility? Why is it so radical to believe that choice belongs to the person being affected?
Dating back to the Reagan era, the Mexico City Policy or global gag rule, bars non-governmental organizations (NGOs) based in the United States from providing abortion services in any part of the world from accessing federal funds. In an attempt to withhold the right globally, the Republican Party held a claim on the bodies of people across borderlines. Devoid of funding from one of the world’s largest countries, organizations ceased the ability to provide not only abortions but the majority of reproductive services needed.
The extent of this policy is vast, touching on nearly every aspect of reproductive health. It outlaws lobbying governments for changing laws surrounding abortion, providing information on the options available in regards to family planning, and providing referrals. If a group is to do so in any capacity, they are cut off from federal funding causing significant disruptions in all services being offered.
Resulting in striking inaccessibility to reproductive services globally at the hands of the Republican Party. Despite cries for change, the voices of those requiring access go muffled under the conservative narrative of the dominant religion in politics. Worsening this was the reinstatement and expansion of the policy in the wake of Trump’s election. NGOs that relied on US funding prior to this specific reinstatement reported a nearly 60% drop in funding sending shockwaves throughout the world of reproductive justice.
Healthcare has been weaponized. Bodily autonomy on the basis of reproductive rights remains to be an issue to be beautifully packaged and presented as the road to liberation yet to equate sentiment to action would be nothing less than utterly false. The gag rule has served to muffle the cries of advocates as they fight to be seen as human beings worthy of having rule over their own being. It all begs the question, as the death rates rise, as the consequences of inaccessibility mount, will cries for aid ever be heard?
The collapse of the Mexico City Policy is not a new development. Each time the United States sees a Democratic President, it is once again rescinded. There is a tumultuous cycle of support and withdrawal that leaves advocates craving stability in their funding. While in its simplest form this repeal may seem to be a monumental step forward in securing rights for millions globally, it is unrealistic to solely place faith here.
It is easy to assume that progress is being made. With feminist discourse becoming increasingly prevalent, it is only natural to assume that action is following these words. To see past the facade to the true state of reproductive rights is jarring.
In Poland, abortions neared full illegality, sparking mass demonstrations throughout the country. The sentiments of citizens displayed the use once more of positions of power to promote a sole perspective rather than embracing the wishes of the people who are affected.
The US saw states implementing strict measures on access. In Arkansas, new laws forcing those seeking an abortion to inform their partner and other family members of the procedure, outright ban all abortions past 14 weeks, have physicians request extensive medical histories for patients with the purpose of delaying or fully denying access, and those teenage patients be reported to local police to have their medical information held in their custody. The state has been unrelenting in its pursuit of a ban despite the national-wide support of access.
Canada, while not nearing a total ban, has greatly restricted access to abortion care. Nunavut does not provide universal coverage of abortion procedures. Free-standing clinics in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick cannot provide their services for free, violating federal Medicare laws. Rural areas are notably devoid of options, even as the issue has seemingly disappeared from political discourse as legalization has become synonymous with equity.
The global gag rule is not a single pillar upholding the silencing of millions. It is the facet of a multitude of policies enabling a single agenda to dominate the narrative. Funding alone will not solve the systemic barriers keeping access next to impossible. As long as the systems of power remain as they are, reproductive issues will continue to be a talking point to be lost in the mundanity of political rule. Voices will be silenced and lives will be lost. The impacts of refusing to commit to true equity in this realm are truly deadly.
Reality is unwavering in its call for justice. Growing accessibility to safe and effective abortion procedures paired with proper reproductive health care services has produced a drop in overall abortion rates and death rates. Illegal does not equate to abolishment. To withdrawal, the right to proper care is to allow the lives of millions to be risked in procedures that are inevitably sought out.
It is time we move past the worn-out notion that options equate accessibility; that legalization is the antithesis of liberation. Any rhetoric of reproductive justice without meaningful action is simply an ignorant attempt to position oneself at the bridging point of equality while remaining digestible for the conservative agenda. Proper sexual education paired with just access is fundamental to achieving the proposed goal of conservative movements in reducing death. Perhaps, the illusion of equity in the shadow of reality is the greatest threat to reproductive justice.
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