Monday, October 29, 2007

What's been keeping me from FTTR?

I know it's been a while since I last posted. But I have something now! I've been writing a research paper for my Comp 2 class, and now it is finished. So I have a little free time between projects now! And midterms week is over! Hooray!

So, since I didn't have time to blog because of this paper, I figure I'll take the time to post the content of such paper here now.

“The 'Global Gag Rule': The Exportation of American Hypocrisy And Its Effects On Women's Health in the Developing World”

Imagine that you are a young woman in Kenya. You have recently been married and have had a child. However, your child is HIV positive, just as you are. Not only did you not have the information and technology to prevent your own HIV infection, but you also lacked the resources necessary to prevent your pregnancy and the subsequent transfer of your disease to your child. Since you live in a rural area, it is hard to obtain condoms and other methods of preventing pregnancy and HIV because of the long distance to the nearest town. Other women in your community have also fallen victim to similar situations; some have numerous children because they cannot prevent themselves from becoming pregnant, and the rate of HIV infection in your community is startlingly high. Some women have died or been injured by clandestine abortions. There are clinics that try to help the women in your community, however, they lack the funding necessary to be truly effective in extinguishing such conditions. This lack of funding, and thus the wretched conditions under which you live, can partly be blamed on an American law commonly called The Global Gag Rule.

The Global Gag Rule has been in existence since the Reagan era. Basically, it was set-up as an add-on to the U.S. Hyde Amendment, which is legislation designed to make sure tax dollars don't go to the funding of abortions by excluding it from the list of services provided by Medicaid (“Public Funding. . .”). However, the Global Gag Rule was meant for more than just the U.S. Its reach spans all across the globe. In short, it denies funds to any non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that support abortion becoming legal in the country they serve, perform abortions (legal or illegal), and/or refer women to clinics that perform abortions. It is also the reason why the situation described above is still a common one in the developing world. It is legislation that is motivated not only by the desire not to fund overseas abortions, but also to stop abortion from happening at all. Support for the Global Gag Rule can be prompted by a desire to stop abortion in general, in all countries, or just as a means of protecting the health of the women who would get them in conditions that would be unsafe whether the procedure is legal or not. The problem with The Global Gag Rule is that it doesn't accomplish either of those goals; no matter how well-intentioned it may be, it is simply legislation that is ineffective, and at very high costs.

In addition to the health risks caused by The Global Gag Rule, it is very hypocritical in nature. The hypocrisy of this type of legislation is apparent in the fact that Planned Parenthood, an American institution that provides abortion counseling, abortion services, etc. gains almost a third of it's funds from the U.S. Government (Johnsen). So, essentially, the Global Gag Rule doesn't even match up with what goes on in the country of it's origin. Even the law that it was based on, the Hyde Amendment, does not deny funding to organizations that simply mention abortion as an option; the Global Gag Rule on the other hand, does.

For example, the Global Gag Rule even denies funding to organizations that oppose abortion. Hilary Fyfe is the chair of the Family Life Movement of Zambia (Loder). Her organization opposes abortion, and yet they are also denied funding by the Global Gag Rule (Loder). Her organization simply mentions that unsafe abortions are a possible consequence of unprotected sex, and due to this bit of information that she gives to young Zambian adults, her organization lost $30,000 (Loder). Her organization does not provide abortions, and in fact is against them, so a global extension of the Hyde Amendment should not apply to her group. However, the Family Life Movement of Zambia is still denied $30,000 dollars of aid that could go to the prevention of HIV/AIDS and other STDs, or even unwanted pregnancies and abortions. However, in the U.S., Planned Parenthood, an organization that talks about, funds, advocates for, and performs abortions still obtains funds from the government. Such events just show how the Global Gag Rule does not conform to the standards of its country of origin.

There is also a tremendous effect on the quality of life of the women who are dependent on the clinics that the Global Gag Rule denies funding to. Most of the NGOs that are now denied funding under the rule provided more than the services that caused them to be defunded in the first place. Many provide(d) information and resources used to prevent HIV infections. However, due to lack of funding, many have closed down, leaving people (women especially) in other countries, especially in African countries, susceptible to an increased rate of HIV infection. This increase in HIV infection is spurred by a lack of access to latex condoms, something African NGOs used to provide free of cost to the young and the poor (Loder).

This issue is a large blemish on the face of globalization as a concept. It is very harmful legislation and shows much more concern for ideology rather than actual utilitarian benefits. It also doesn't comply with American values and laws. Not only that, it's a prime candidate for becoming the poster child for those who would argue that attempts at globalization are a way for more powerful countries to force their values on others. The rule of not giving funds to NGOs that even support the legality of abortion stifles the voice of democracy and social change (even if it's not a change Americans want to see) in the countries we claim to be helping. It could be said that such legislation serves to stifle the culture and beliefs of different societies, essentially exporting the beliefs of a certain group of American officials and citizens. This legislation doesn't even really give the countries it affects a choice, either. It simply denies funds without taking their voice into account. Certainly this doesn't comply with America's image of itself: the bringer of democracy and freedom of speech to developing and supposedly oppressed countries.

The exportation of these ideologies often costs the lives of people in developing countries. Women are affected by this issue on a larger scale, however, due to the nature of illegal (or even legal) abortion in “third-world” countries, and the fact that women are infected with HIV at a higher rate (Scherrer). In one year, 70,000 women worldwide will die from an illegal abortion (“Abortion Rates. . .”). With the money that would have been given to some of the NGOs that are now underfunded, those women may have had a better chance of surviving whether what they did was right or wrong.

Officials often point out that funds would not be denied to NGOs worldwide if they would choose to comply with the policy (Loder). They mention that the amount of funds distributed to USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) has not been reduced (Loder). However, they have been allocated to groups who do not mention abortion at all. This is not conducive to reproductive and sexual counseling, as it makes no mention of the possible consequences of unprotected sex, or even failed contraception. While it is true that the Global Gag Rule contains some exceptions for rape, incest, and health, it still takes away money from organizations that even mention abortion at all. So young girls and women who are raped still don't really have any resources to turn to. And of course they didn't have any hope of being able to use contraceptives during the attack, therefore the blackballing of organizations that even mention abortion as a possibility, or even mention the consequences of the process, hurts rape victims the most. In countries where it's a commonly held belief that raping a virgin cures HIV/AIDS, this could definitely lead to more girls seeking out illegal abortion services if they are not given truthful and comprehensive counseling on their other options, or on the possibly fatal consequences of illegal abortion. They would also need better access to HIV/AIDS resources, but of course the Global Gag Rule denies funding to many organizations that would provide such material.

It may seem as though this issue relies heavily on whether or not abortion is morally right or wrong. However, that is simply not the case. The issue of the Global Gag Rule merely has to do with the safety and health of women in developing countries. It is absolutely true that whether abortion is mentioned, advocated, legal, illegal, or never talked about at all, women will seek it out as an option. So why deny funding to organizations that are simply trying to do their best to inform women of ALL of their options, even if they are not advocating for abortion as one of them? All that leads to is more organizations that provide much needed contraception and HIV/AIDS prevention shutting down, losing staff, and losing supplies and resources. Whether abortion is right or wrong, the Global Gag Rule does not help to stop women from obtaining them. It only hurts the organizations that are trying to better women's health in the developing world, and is also hypocritical in that it imposes restrictions on organizations and women in the developing world that are not present in American society. That is why it should be abolished and replaced with a policy that directs America government funds to any NGOs that are trying to help women's health care in other countries whether they mention, support, or perform abortions or not. Women's lives depend on it.


"Abortion rates same whether legal or not." Oct 11, 2007. 14 Oct 2007 .

Johnsen, Jennifer. "Planned Parenthood Annual Report 2005-2006." 2007. Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 27 Oct 2007 .

Loder, Asjylyn Loder. "Report: Global Gag Rule Spurring Deaths, Disease." Women's E-news. 09/25/03. 14 Oct 2007 .

"Public Funding for Abortion." 7/21/2004. ACLU. 14 Oct 2007 .

Scherrer, Paul. "UN report on AIDS paints a picture of devastation—Part 1." World Socialist Web Site. 17 July 2000. 14 Oct 2007 .


FEMily! said...

A+! I missed you, by the way.

Reactionaries in the Bush Administration know that Americans aren't as dumb as we look. If Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow, there would be such outrage that I doubt the Administration would get anything done and would therefore have to reinstate it. The same goes for passing a so-called marriage protection amendment or repealing child labor laws or making unions illegal. But these conservatives have to push their backwards beliefs on someone. And who better than the vulnerable people of the third-world who depend on the United States and other industrialized nations to live? There's going to be all sorts of strings attached to the funding or services given to other countries, even if it's in direct contradiction to what the United States government provides for its own people. This goes for the Global Gag Rule, abstinence-only education that essentially funds homophobia in Uganda, or trading with countries that don't have fair labor laws. It's really all very disturbing.

Megan said...

True dat.