Today, September 26, is the 13th annual World Contraception Day, a day “to improve awareness of all contraceptive methods available and enable young people to make informed choices on their sexual and reproductive health.”
In the developing world, 214 million women wish to avoid pregnancy but have an unmet need for contraception. In the United States, 45% of pregnancies are unintended; of those unintended pregnancies, 58% (1.6 million) result in births. On World Contraception Day, we must commit to eliminating unmet need and unintended pregnancy. We should start by reversing three terrible Trump policies:
- Trump’s Global Gag Rule is an odious U.S. policy that prohibits global health assistance to any foreign NGO that provides abortion, counsels on abortion, refers patients to other providers for abortion, or advocates for the liberalization of abortion laws in their own countries, with their own, non-U.S. money. Many health care providers have refused to sign the Global Gag Rule and have lost U.S. funding as a result. This has led to supplies shortages, staff layoffs, and even clinic closures — consequences that only serve to decrease contraceptive access and increase the incidence of unsafe abortion.
- Since the Trump-Pence administration took office, the United States has refused to fund the United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA. The agency believes that voluntary family planning is a human right and a key factor in reducing poverty. Its programs work to improve access to contraception for those who face an unmet need by “ensuring a steady, reliable supply of quality contraceptives; strengthening national health systems; advocating for policies supportive of family planning; and gathering data to support this work.” That the United States refuses to fund these poverty reduction and women’s empowerment programs is unconscionable.
- In the United States, Title X grants have provided access to contraception and reproductive health care to low income individuals for decades. The recent decision to cut funding to all Title X programs that mention the word abortion placed a gag on medical professionals, many of whom chose to forgo Title X funding in order to continue providing safe abortion. In addition, clinic staff are now able to refuse to serve patients on “moral grounds,” are required to provide proof that they attempted to include family members in the decision making of minors seeking contraception, and can only offer information on pregnancy termination if it is specifically requested during counseling (in the past, clinic staff were required to provide counseling on all options — including the option to terminate). Furthermore, clinics that offer “natural family planning” over modern contraception are now prioritized in the grant-making process. As with the Global Gag Rule, this Title X Domestic Gag Rule forces providers to cut back on services, lay off staff, and even close clinic doors.
As we celebrate World Contraception Day, we must acknowledge that the President of the United States is actively working to strip access to contraceptives, deepening the roots of poverty and inequality. But you can make a difference: Call your elected officials today and tell them to repeal the Global Gag Rule, fund UNFPA, and support Title X.