By Anayo Okoli
Stakeholders in the campaign for improved women’s health in Nigeria and the world at large have decried the negative impact of the Mexico City Policy, introduced by President Donald Trump in 2016, on the wellbeing of mothers and children.
Making the call in Owerri, Imo State, during a zonal training workshop organised for media practitioners by Ipas Nigeria, participants said the policy has denied millions access to family planning and other reproductive health services.
Calling on Trump to immediately abolish the policy also known as the Global Gag Rule, GGR, in order to save the lives of the women., they said
According to them, the negative impact of the policy was already affecting the global battle against maternal mortality as reports show that a total of 295,000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth in 2017 alone.
The report also showed that sub-Saharan Africa and Asia were the worst hit.
Further, the policy, which they described as anti-democratic, according to them, has become an impediment to the fight against maternal mortality in Africa, South Asia, and Nigeria in particular.
Statistics from the Guttmacher Institute also revealed that Nigeria recorded 1.25 million induced abortions in 2012 with adolescent girls mostly affected.
Painting a grim picture of the situation, Ipas Country Director, Lucy Palmer cited a study that reported that “unsafe abortions account for 13 per cent of maternal deaths in Nigeria, and many more women suffer serious injuries”.
Citing the same study, Executive Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, WARDC, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi noted: “Of the 1.25 million induced abortions in Nigeria in 2012, 40 percent resulted in complications serious enough to require treatment in a health facility while about 212,000 women were treated in health facilities for complications of induced abortion that year; 285, 000 additional women suffered serious health complications but were not treated in medical facilities because they were unable to pay”.
Lamenting the negative effect of the Global Gag Rule, the participants at workshop observed that it has caused women and girls to continue to face reproductive rights violation, especially in situations of conflicts as in the case of Boko Haram in Nigeria where it was reported that more than 200 women and girls rescued by the Nigerian Army in 2015 were pregnant as a result of serial rape or forced marriages; and none was offered access to safe abortion, forcing some of them to do it illegally and losing their lives in the process.
With the gag rule policy, the US has stopped over $360 million USAID projects targeted at reducing maternal mortality and addressing complications arising from unsafe abortions.
Rather, the policy has increased the number of unsafe abortions and associated deaths.
Participants at the workshop were unanimous in their opinions that the GGR policy, rather than offer solution, was causing more harm, as more unintended pregnancy and a higher rate of maternal mortality as well as an increase in unsafe abortion resulting from violence against women and girls, were being recorded.
They urged the American policymakers to repeal the law, having failed to achieve its intended objective.
They also noted that the GGR policy is in conflict with US foreign policy of promoting democratic participation, the building of civil society, and the enhancement of the status of women within democracies.
The policy, they further noted, has caused high maternal mortality rates across the world, particularly in Africa and South Asia, and urged that it be repealed to enhance more access to healthcare and promote women’s rights to reproductive self-determination and strengthen the fight against violence against women.
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