BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday January 27, 2017 – US President Donald Trump’s signing of a ban on US government funding international groups that perform or provide information on abortions could have an unlikely casualty in Barbados.
The Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) just might lose out on funds for its HIV programmes.
On his first day in office on Monday, Trump signed an executive order reinstating an expanded version of the Mexico City Policy (also called the Global Gag Rule which was first announced in 1984 by the Reagan administration). The policy requires foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to certify that they will not provide abortion services, counselling, or referrals, even in countries where abortion is legal.
It means these organizations must sign a formal agreement that they will not use their own funds or funds from any source on abortions services, counselling, and referrals, as a condition for receiving all forms of US global health assistance. Under prior administrations, the gag rule was limited to funding for family planning programmes and did not impact HIV programmes.
The policy has been rescinded and reinstated by subsequent administrations along party Democrat and Republican Party lines. It has been in effect for approximately 17 of the past 32 years. President Obama rescinded the order for the duration of his administration.
The Dutch Government says it wants to help set up an international fund to counteract Pres Trump’s decision: https://t.co/xpgIzrhSYw
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) January 26, 2017
In a statement issued a day after Trump’s decision to reinstate the policy, the BFPA said while it does not rely heavily on US government funding or external funding to sustain its work, it currently has an important programme of work around HIV which is partially supported by a US-funded international non-governmental organization (NGO) that must comply with the order.
“Consequently, this order may cause BFPA to lose US funding for ongoing HIV programmes. We are uncertain and we are currently awaiting a formal advisory about the status of our US funded projects from our US funders,” it said.
“BFPA stands in solidarity with our sister organizations across the globe who rely heavily on US funding.”
The association’s executive director Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland lamented that the gag rule compels the BFPA to choose between being silent about a lawful service for women and receiving international funding from US government sources.
“This is not much of a choice. BFPA cannot sign any gag order preventing work or advice on family planning and abortion issued by the United States government, as the work of the Association on family planning and abortions is in compliance with the sovereign laws of Barbados and women in Barbados view these services as essential health and guard these rights jealously,” she said.
“We know from decades of global experience that eliminating access to safe abortion services does not reduce the incidence of abortion; it just makes abortion more unsafe. For BFPA, we counsel on the range of contraceptives available to meet the needs of women and families, so that they can plan and space the timing of pregnancies – this is what has worked well in Barbados to reduce the need for terminations.”
Bynoe-Sutherland pointed out that even where pregnancies are planned, a woman may need to terminate a pregnancy for clinical reasons, so it is “virtually impossible and ill-advised” for any organization working on women’s sexual and reproductive health issues to be silent on the issue of contraceptives and termination.