Trump’s gag order is unacceptable to me

 

One of the first executive orders Donald Trump pushed through in his first few weeks as the President of the United States was the Mexico City policy, also known as the global gag rule. This move came as no surprise, as Republicans have a history of reinstating the policy every time they come back into office. However, the degree to which Trump expanded this order is staggering. The gag order now affects all global health funding, as opposed to just family planning funded through USAID or the State department. This applies to a total of $9.5 billion in global health funding, rather than just the approximate $575 million in family planning and reproductive health funding that the global gag order would normally affect. This order bans American NGOs working abroad from discussing abortions, and effectively gags doctors from giving reliable and truthful medical advice to their patients. While the politics that put this gag order in place are domestic, the greatest and most long-lasting impact it has is on the women and families in foreign countries. The UN Human Rights Committee responded to Ireland’s criminalization of abortion last year by deeming it a human rights violation. Actions like this serving to prove that Trump’s restriction of this human right will have a far-reaching impact on those who need access to it most.

It has been proven time and time again that the global gag rule does little to stop abortion, but instead fosters the desperation that leads to unsafe abortions, resulting in the injuries and deaths of the women in need. The Trump administration refuses to acknowledge that the most effective measure to prevent abortion is providing accurate information on family planning and accessibility to affordable birth control.

To say this news impacted me would be an understatement. Coming on the heels of the women’s marches held across the globe, the global gag rule struck a chord with all women’s rights activists. For me, this news was burdened with the knowledge that girls and women across the world would no longer have access to the service that saved my 17-year-old self from a bleak future of rural poverty. The global gag rule risks the health and safety of women across the globe by silencing the conversation on abortion, and restricting their access to sexual and reproductive health education, birth control, and contraceptives along with the procedure itself.

However, as we have recently learned from the Republican shutting down of Elizabeth Warren’s speech on behalf of Coretta Scott King, women will not be silenced, and they will persist.

The past few weeks have led me to the realization that being silent on the matter of my abortion is to the benefit of no one but myself, and my speaking out on the subject may help other young women realize that they are not alone in this world. My choice to have an abortion stemmed from a lack of options, as many do. I was young, still in high school, from a poor family, and living in a small rural town. My boyfriend at the time was not someone I would want to father my child, and I certainly wasn’t ready to become a single mother before graduating secondary school. I am unashamed of my choice and frankly quite happy that I had decided to get an abortion.

If I did not have access to this legal and affordable procedure as a Canadian citizen, I likely would not have escaped that small town, I would not have the amazing job and internship I have now, and I would not be a few months away from graduating with my Bachelor’s degree at one of the top-ranked universities in Canada. I would likely be a single mother stuck fighting poverty in a minimum wage job. I am endlessly grateful for the Canadian laws that respect women’s right to healthcare. The stigma of abortion needs to be shaken off so that women can openly discuss this procedure without the shame or fear that surrounds our choice to do what we think is best with our bodies.

I have never felt the guilt or regret that society often dictates is necessary in the aftermath of an abortion. On the contrary, the afternoon after I had the procedure I went to a tour of the university I have called my home for the past four years. A woman’s ability to choose what to do with her own body is vital in the struggle for women’s rights, and it is hindered time and time again by governments’ inability to separate the church from the state.

When women are given the opportunity to succeed, the whole world succeeds. By restricting the availability of this procedure to women in foreign countries, Trump is taking away their agency to decide their futures for themselves, and is limiting them to the same bleak future I faced at 17. Now more than ever, we as women need to take the opportunity to stand up and face the likes of Donald Trump—and everything he stands for—and to say, “I am here, I am a woman, I will not stay silent, and I will persist.”