It wasn’t until 1994 that reproductive health was officially considered part of human rights and family planning became a component of reproductive health. The goal being to facilitate an individual’s ability to determine if, when and how many children to conceive. Although both men and women engage in sexual activity, women disproportionately bear the burden of contraceptive choice and/or unplanned pregnancy.

The Mexico City Policy

Trump recently announced an expansion of the Mexico City Policy renaming it “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance.” The Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule, is a United States government policy that requires foreign NGOs to certify that they will not provide abortion counselling or advocate to decriminalise abortion using funds from any source (including non-U.S. funds), as a condition for receiving U.S. government global family planning assistance. This meant that the USA recently rejected part of a UN resolution designed to help female victims of violence—particularly those in conflict zones, who are at increased risk of sexual assault and rape—because it included a statement that women should be given the option of a safe abortion.

As it turns out, Australia had its own Global Gag Rule, when in 1996 AusAID was unable to fund activities involving abortion training or services or other activities involving abortion drugs until it was overturned in 2009. Although Australia does not have a perfect report card when it comes to human rights, as women we theoretically have contraceptive choice and abortion is an option for unplanned pregnancy. Theoretically because there are barriers to both in Australia –  starting with the fact that abortion is the subject of criminal law in all Australian states and territories, except the ACT. It’s easy to be complacent about issues that don’t affect one directly but it is these sometimes-subtle decisions that democratic governments implement, that open portals to wider restrictions on one’s rights. It is naive to think we are shielded by the events across the Atlantic. Australia dissolved the AusAID restriction after Obama lifted the Mexico City Policy. Let’s hope we don’t follow the USA lead on the revised Mexico City Policy.

Want to know more?

Sexual health and reproductive rights at a crossroad

Trump’s Global Gag a Devastating Blow for Women’s Rights

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). The Mexico City Policy: An Explainer

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