Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 12th. Here at Population Connection, we honor mothers every day by working toward a world where they can choose how many children to have, and when to have them, based on what’s best for themselves and their families.
For too many women, this level of self-determination isn’t a reality. They are women like Mary, a 33-year-old single mother of five children in Nairobi, Kenya. She relies on her local health clinic for contraceptives and for health care for herself and her young children. Unfortunately, her clinic, Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK), stopped receiving U.S. aid due to Trump’s imposition of the heinous Global Gag Rule as soon as he took office. The Gag Rule prohibits any overseas health clinic that receives U.S. global health aid from even mentioning abortion. Health providers who refuse to treat their patients with anything less than comprehensive care have had to forfeit U.S. aid. That has led to staff layoffs, program cuts, and—when sufficient alternate funding hasn’t been available—shuttered clinics.
And for Mary, and other women already living on the margins, the effects are deeply personal.
“If you come here and you can be charged something like 800, you don’t have even 50 shillings, then they tell you to go. You just have to go back to your house with a sick child. Cause just Trump has refused to assist us. What can we do? Or is he happy when people are dying? Is he happy? Trump should think. All of us, we are created by God. Just tell him to have the heart.”
FHOK has offered a range of reproductive health services throughout Kenya since it was established in 1962. Its free Kibera clinic opened in 2014, thanks to support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)—creating a lifeline for women and children living in some of the world’s most challenging circumstances. However, Trump’s Global Gag Rule has cut that lifeline. Without USAID funding to offset the cost of services FHOK provides many patients for free, the clinic has already announced its impending closure—leaving patients like Mary without access to care.
Mary’s story is just one piece of a much larger narrative—one in which cruel and short-sighted policies have harsh real-world implications for millions of women around the globe.
Frequent pregnancies and inadequate health care contribute to more than 300,000 maternal deaths—and 2.7 million newborn deaths—each year. In sub-Saharan Africa, the lifetime risk of dying of maternal causes is 1 in 36. In high-income countries, it’s 1 in 3,300. Preventing pregnancies from happening too soon after the birth of a child, or from happening when a woman is too young or too old goes a long way toward improving maternal and infant health and survival. As a bonus, with proper birth spacing, fertility rates go down, which improves girls’ chances of staying in school, which then increases their likelihood of marrying later and having fewer children. In other words, access to contraception and other reproductive health care services begins a virtuous cycle that can bring benefits to women, children, and entire communities.
Addressing the global unmet need for family planning is one of the best investments we can make for mothers, current and future, and for the future of our planet. The cost of meeting the contraceptive needs of all women in the developing world would amount to just $1.90 per woman per year. This Mother’s Day, join us in empowering women with health and rights to make the world a better place for everyone.