A little over half of the United States population is made of women; therefore, they must not be considered or treated as a minority or special population. As far as health issues are concerned, equal research funding and effort must be dedicated towards women health as those of men. History has shown that the health needs of women continue to lag in medical research, except maybe for those in areas of reproduction.
One fundamental human right of every person is access to affordable and quality healthcare. However, this is not the case as many women die each year due to lack of proper healthcare. Statistically, the World Health Organization estimates that over 800 women die daily as a result of pregnancy or childbirth complications. Developing countries suffer most from these cases of maternal health.
Two years ago, the Donald Trump administration reinstated the Mexico City Policy. Also known as the “Global Gag Rule,” this policy places a further restriction on healthcare funding. A decision that makes it tough for women in developing countries (that relies on US foreign aid) to access healthcare. Although a counter-initiative known as “SheDecides” was immediately set up by the Dutch Government to bridge the gap in funding, the initial restriction poses a more significant threat to women’s health.
The SheDecides global initiative is supported by various world Governments, business, and philanthropists to fill the funding gap in women’s health.
For more than 34 years now, the Global Gag Rule policy has been alternately suspended and reinstated by successive US governments. A process that has seen millions of people suffer as a result. Established in 1984, the original policy of the rule prohibits NGOs involved in any form of abortion procedures from getting foreign aid funding from United State Administration for International Development (USAID) or State Departments. This situation complicates and makes it difficult for clinics run by NGOs in developing countries and rural areas to make healthcare available due to lack of funding.
How Big is the Impact of the Global Gag Rule as it concerns Women’s Health?
Apart from reviving the policy, the scope was further expanded during this present administration. It must be noted, that none of the US federal funding can be used for abortion services. Either on US soil or overseas as the case may be.
When it was last enforced during George W. Bush’s tenure (the last administration to revive the policy), only family planning funds as provided by the State Department and the United State Administration for International Development (USAID) were affected. This fund was in the tune of 575 million US dollars.
A decision that will have a long and devastating effect on women’s health needs
With restrictions extending to all US global health assistance, the Trumps administration has further widened the scope: a decision that will have a long and devastating effect on women’s health needs. An estimate of 8.8 billion US dollars has been cut in various health funding programs for HIV/AIDS support, child and maternal healthcare, as well as malaria and tuberculosis treatment.
The domino effect of the Gag Rule is that: NGOs that is one of the major stakeholders in healthcare provision in low-income countries and rural areas such as Kenya and Nigeria will be cash-strapped. In Kenya for instance, 15% of the countries clinic is run by NGOs. While in Nigeria on the other hand, 70% and 25% of the contraceptives used in the country is provided by the United Nations Population Fund and United State Administration for International Development (USAID) respectively. The United States funds these organizations.
Gender Inequality in Health and the need for access to sexual and reproductive healthcare
Gender equality must be central to all health. It is not impossible to have a world for all women and girls with quality and affordable healthcare. Women are integral to our society, and their health must be a priority for all. We must create a world where every woman and the girl child can exercise their sexual and reproductive health rights and be treated as equals.
214 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods.”
It is a shame that hundreds of women still die from pregnancy and childbirth complications- a situation that can be avoided with access to primary prenatal and postpartum healthcare. With our gender bias and attitude towards women’s health, the world is losing generations of mothers and children.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, “214 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods.” One of the reasons for this is the lack of access to safe contraceptives – that helps prevent sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS, with many others lacking access to information about healthcare resources.
Deliberate denial of access to information due to gender discrimination has stripped many women and girls of the power to own their bodies. They become at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, carrying out unsafe abortions and getting unwanted pregnancies.
More still needs to be done to improve women’s health.
Women’s Health Month, an antidote for improved health
While we clamour for more funding and equality for women’s health, it is essential that women also take steps to improve their overall health. Women the world over, must make their health a priority as well as build a positive lifestyle.
This year women’s health month will not be different as the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office on women’s health further encourages women to be as healthy as possible.
Steps to Improve your Health
1. Healthy eating habit
2. Be active
3. Regular visitation to a doctor or nurse for a well-woman checkup, screening, and vaccinations.
4. Be mentally pro-active and manage your stress levels
5. Carry out safe behaviours always.
Charity Donations towards women’s health
Although the SheDecides initiative has tried to bridge the gap in women’s health funding by raising around 400 million USD through governments of Belgium, Denmark, France, etc. and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, more still needs to be done to improve women’s health.
Through a Netherlands based NGO known as Rutgers, the SheDecides initiative has been able to keep most of the clinics affected by the Global Gag Rule opened. This has allowed them to provide health services as related to sexual and reproduction.
Donating to charity towards women’s health still needs a long way to go to cover other areas affecting women.
CULTIVE is taking a giant step towards this by committing 50% of its profit this month towards the Society of Women’s Health Research. Their work advocates for greater public and private funding for women’s health research and the study of biological differences that affect the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease.