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Conscience Magazine

First Aid, Then Politics

August 14, 2017

In “First: Aid,” Barbara Crane and Elizabeth McGuire bring insight and context to current debates around foreign assistance funding. Investing in repro­ductive health—and abor­tion in particular—has long been a highly politicized debate, with decisions often driven more by ideology or expediency than by evidence and best practice.

Countless studies have shown that you cannot address maternal mortality, gender equality or sustain­able development without improving access to safe abortion services. Yet, even within the ranks of civil society, we continue to isolate conversations about increasing access to abortion from the rest of global health; abortion remains heavily stigmatized in part because we’ve allowed it to be a third rail of American politics.

Long before Trump’s global gag rule sought to further export a conserva­tive American ideology, US policy has been out of step with evidence. We know that access to safe abortion improves health outcomes for women. Global norms recognize reproductive health care, including abor­tion, to be a human right. But, for all the progress made under the Obama administration in advancing the health and rights of women and girls, incredibly damaging policies were left in place, such as the Helms and Hyde Amendments, which erect additional barriers for women seeking to access abortion in the United States and abroad. Continuing to accept these policies perpetuates the myth that abortion should be negotiated by politicians in Washington, rather than included as part of the comprehensive healthcare that every woman—wher­ever she lives—should be able to receive.

As the Trump administra­tion strips away women’s access to critical healthcare, including family planning, we need open conversations about reproductive health and abortion that are based in facts and demand now more than ever.

Senior Program Officer
International Women’s Health Coalition
Washington, DC