Photo credit: Flickr / Stephen D. Melkisethian

Trump’s new Planned Parenthood laws could kill

Trump’s new bill will allow states to defund Planned Parenthood. He is also restricting abortion access around the world. The consequences could be deadly.

On April 13, President Trump signed a bill allowing states the right to defund Planned Parenthood. As PP provides birth control, emergency contraception, and abortion services, this could have significant consequences for low income, poor, young, and black women.

Whilst Trump and his supporters might argue that this bill will reduce tax payers’ money, it will actually cost taxpayers an extra 130 million dollars over the next ten years. Maryland has become the first state to enact a law that will reimburse any cuts made to Planned Parenthood. The reimbursement will require two million dollars from Maryland’s Medicaid budget, and $700,000 from the state’s general fund. Apart from Maryland, there is no news of which other states will make cuts, or reimburse them.

Who does this bill impact?

According to a 2016 study by the Guttmacher Institute, poor and low-income women make up 75% of those seeking abortions in the US.

Since Planned Parenthood provides abortion services for free, states that cut funding may force many women to carry unwanted pregnancies to full-term, or to carry out dangerous illegal abortions.

The Guttmacher Institute also conducted a 2014 study of the demographics of abortion recipients. 39% were white, 28% black, 25% Hispanic, 6% Asian or Pacific Islander, and 3% other. Relative to the size of their populations in the US, white women were ‘slightly underrepresented,’ while black women were ‘substantially overrepresented,’ and Hispanic women were ‘slightly overrepresented.’ Women in their 20s made up 60 percent of abortions, making them the largest age-group of abortion recipients. Women aged 20-24 had an overrepresented abortion rate of 1.9.

In February, The Scene produced a powerful video in which several women discussed their abortion experiences before abortion was made legal (in 1973). Their stories included graphic details, including the fact that there was no anesthetic provided. One of the women had been impregnated by her rapist. One woman told the story of another woman who died of tetanus. In states that cut Planned Parenthood funding, these phenomena could resurface as a reality.

Given the findings in the Guttmacher study, we can infer that Trump’s cuts to Planned Parenthood will impact low-income women, young women, and black women most of all.

Around the world: Trump’s Global Gag

In addition to cutting Planned Parenthood within the US, Trump also passed what has become known as the Global Gag rule.

Planned Parenthood stopped receiving US funding for abortion services in 1973. This means that Planned Parenthood centers around the world use their own local funds for abortion services, while using US funding for other crucial services such as AIDS relief and vaccination programs. The Global Gag rule threatens to cut money from all health services receiving US funding, if centers use their own country’s funds to:

  1. provide abortion services
  2. counsel women about abortion options, or,
  3. advocate for the liberalization of abortion laws.

If centers disobey any of these three rules, even if they use their own funding to do so, Trump will make cuts to US funding in life-saving services including HIV/AIDs, the fight against Zika, and maternal care. According to journalist Jihii Jolly, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which receives US funding, provides maternal care that helps women in many impoverished or dangerous countries, including Syria, survive childbirth. If Planned Parenthood centers disobey Trump’s restrictions on abortion, funding to this maternal care could be cut.

Women’s lives at stake

Trump’s cuts to Planned Parenthood in the US, as well as his restrictions on abortion abroad, could result in the deaths of women. American women could die from receiving dangerous illegal abortions, and women in the developing world could die from lack of maternal care, as well as care for various diseases.

In the developing world, lives may already have been lost. Human Rights Watch stated: ‘Health providers in organizations that complied with the restrictions to keep their US funds have talked about seeing women die from unsafe abortions and being ‘gagged’ from providing full and accurate information to patients and advocating for changes to restrictive abortion laws.’