The following piece was written by Aerlyn Pfeil, midwife and member of the Doctors Without Borders/ Mdecins Sans Frontires( MSF-USA) board of directors. This content was originally published on MSF s Because Tomorrow Needs Her blog .
I recollect coaching a young lady as she pushed her first babe out of her womb following nine months of nightmares. She had been raped and abortion was restricted in Papua New Guinea. At eight weeks of pregnancy, she had arrived at a Doctors Without Borders/ Mdecins Sans Frontires( MSF ) clinic, shaking, fearful, and sobbing, asking if I could help.
We discussed her panics, her desires for the future, and the physical, emotional, and legal perils of discontinuing her pregnancy, as well as the risks of continuing it.
Ultimately it wasnt safe for her to have an abortion. But it was extremely important for her emotional well-being and her capacity to mother her yet-to-be-born infant that she receive informed, unbiased, and comprehensive care.
The Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule( GGR ), will avoid midwives all over the world from providing these vital services.
The GGR is a United States government executive order prohibiting non-governmental organizations( NGOs) that receive U.S. government fund from furnishing or discussing with patients the option of safe termination of pregnancy. While the U.S. has not allowed government funding for most abortion services overseas since the 1973 Helms Amendment, this executive ordering further curtails womens ability to receive complete reproductive care by withholding all fund if abortion is even mentioned during patient consultations. That means no patient counseling , no public education, and no referrals related to safe abortion services.
MSF does not receive any U.S. government fund, so were protected from the GGR, but we are the exception. I am fearful of the far-reaching negative effects the GGR will have on womens health worldwide.
Im going to be upfront: discussing abortion has all along been easy for me. Ive seen that when it comes to our moral sentences, proof does little to sway people one way or another. But Id like to share, anyway.
Since I started attending births in 2001, Ive provided informed care to thousands of women, regardless of my faith or personal sentences. I have witnessed daughters become mothers. I have comprised slippery newborns as they take their first breath, and, in some cases, their only breath.
I have witnessed time and time again the strength and suffering of women.
Id like to believe my experience induces me actively , acutely, truly, pro-life.
I likewise believe females have the right to induce informed choice about their reproductive health, about their bodies and families. Being a midwife means I am with and for women and yes, sometimes that means I terminate a pregnancy.
The GGR is not saving lives; it plays politics with womens lives.
If we are against abortion in any and all cases and believe every pregnancy should be continued, regardless of the circumstances, the GGR seems to make sense. Yet, like life, the implementation of policies isnt black and white. The GGR will actually hurt women and their children. In short, it will force NGOs to choose.
NGOs can continue to counsel women on their safe reproductive care the possibilities and lose funding for a range of life-saving services: from safe deliveries to contraception, from treatment for malnutrition and HIV, to care for Ebola, malaria, and the Zika virus, all of which uniquely impact pregnant women. Or they can withhold vitally important health information, a clear violation of medical ethics. Either behavior, patientsadults and childrenwill pay the price.
There is abundant proof supporting the fact that highly restrictive abortion statutes do not avoid the termination of pregnancy. And there is no evidence demonstrating the GGR has in the past, or would in the future, reduce the number of abortions. Data shows that the number of abortions actually go up when the GGR has been in place. The true is that defunding the organisations that provide safe, informed reproductive health services increases health risks of a life lost. Denying a woman access to health care sets her life and the lives of the children she feeds at risk.
Some 81 percent of unintended maternities worldwide are a result of unmet contraceptive requires. The GGR defunds programs that provide access to much needed contraception. We know that when women have no safe alternatives, many of them will risk their lives to aim an unwanted pregnancy. Unsafe abortion is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality, killing 68,000 females each year.
The vast majority of these fatalities occurs in developing countries, where the NGOs that the GGR will further limit are often the sole providers of health care.
Almost all these fatalities are preventable.
I recollect two young girls who travelled across three country perimeters to seek contraception in South Sudan. They walked for over a month before arrived here the MSF hospital.
I recollect are concerned about the world health organization and what they encountered along that pilgrimage. The daughters , not more than 16, living alone and intimidated, without money or food.
I recollect advising one of them that she was already pregnant. She slept under the hospital couch, disguised by sheets and blankets.
I recollect holding the hands of these girls while they cried.
I recollect sitting next to their brave, stoic bodies, their grim, unsmiling faces.
These daughters necessity advise, education, the ability to induce informed choices.
If we want women and girls around the world to have healthy, meaningful lives, they must be given opportunities for safe, complete, and informed reproductive health care. They must not used as political pawns .
ThisWomens History Month, be kept in mind that we have the power to induce history every day. And in 2017, that seems more urgent than ever. Follow along with HuffPost onFacebook, TwitterandInsta
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