Trump’s worldwide war on abortion

The Trump administration’s anti-abortion measures threaten the lives of women across the world, especially the poor.

Abortion protest REuters
Abortion rights campaigners attend a rally against new restrictions on abortion passed in eight states, including Alabama and Georgia, in New York City, May 21, 2019 [File: Jeenah Moon/Reuters]

“Population control”, as defined by the Collins English Dictionary, is “a policy of attempting to limit the growth in numbers of a population, esp[ecially] in poor or densely populated parts of the world, by programmes of contraception or sterilisation”.

The current “pro-life” regime of United States President Donald Trump, of course, is no fan of such programmes. But it is all about controlling human populations and behaviour worldwide in accordance with unhinged religio-imperialist visions – many of them especially damaging to the poor.

In 2017, for example, the Trump administration dramatically discontinued financial support for that diabolically radical outfit known as the United Nations Population Fund, which is allegedly attempting to overthrow civilisation by promoting abortion and other evils.

That same year hosted the unveiling of the “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” policy, which cuts US government funding to foreign NGOs considered to be involved in abortion work. 

A vastly more punishing version of the so-called “global gag rule” that has been regularly implemented by Republican presidents since 1984, the policy now also applies to organisations that work across a range of health issues. In short, this means that an NGO dealing with HIV/Aids, cancer, malaria, tuberculosis, gender-based violence, and so on cannot receive US funds for these activities if it also chooses to inform patients about the existence of abortion as a possible method of family planning.

So much for “protecting life” – not that such a noble concept would ever really be expected of a government that specialises in slaughtering people around the world. 

More reasons to gag

In April, a Foreign Policy exclusive reported that the Trump administration had “pressured Germany into watering down a United Nations resolution aimed at preventing rape in conflict situations, forcing it to remove language on sexual and reproductive health that key Trump administration officials say normalizes sexual activity and condones abortion”.

All that is missing on the international scene, it seems, is Andrew Bremberg, Trump’s nominee for US ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Among his sacred beliefs is that rape victims should not be permitted to abort.

Now, two years after the launch of the new-and-improved global gag rule, Trump is bringing it home with the US’s very own domestic gag rule, which will prohibit health clinics that receive funds from the federal Title X family planning programme from referring women for abortions and otherwise assisting them in the pursuit of their constitutional rights.

As the New York Times notes, Title X “serves about 4 million women a year, and many low-income women also get basic health care from the clinics”.

So while the anti-abortion campaign constitutes an obvious assault on women everywhere, it is a particularly brutal assault on the poor. After all, both in the US and abroad, females in higher socioeconomic echelons will often have the means to procure a safe abortion, regardless of the obstacles erected.

‘Women will die’

Consider the recent finding that 75 percent of abortion patients in the US are “poor or near-poor“. In the present milieu of obscene economic stratification, forcing poor women to shoulder the gigantic financial responsibility of unwanted offspring pretty much amounts to a conscious perpetuation of poverty – a vicious cycle that also disproportionately affects poor women of colour, such being the reality of race-class divides in US “democracy”.

Anyway, it all works out fine for a capitalist system that thrives on keeping poor people poor.

What to do, then, if you are a poor woman in Alabama, where in May the State Senate voted to criminalise abortion even in cases of rape or incest and prescribed up to 99 years in prison for doctors who perform the procedure?

In a Guardian dispatch on the pernicious effects of US abortion bans on the “most vulnerable”, the president of Planned Parenthood Southeast Staci Fox is quoted as stressing that, denied legal abortions, females in rural areas are likely to endeavour to terminate their pregnancies themselves: “The outcome of that is clear: women will die.”

Again, never mind the old “pro-life” argument.

And women will continue to die elsewhere, too. Journalist Urooba Jamal points out that, in Kenya, seven women perish each day in attempts to induce their own abortions – deaths that might have been preventable, she says, had a local organisation not been forcibly gagged on the reproductive healthcare front as a condition for receiving US funds to provide HIV services to 10,000 people.

Aborting the system

Of course, the current war on abortion is hardly the first time in history that a supposedly morally righteous US campaign – ostensibly being waged for the good of humanity – has played out in destructive fashion on the bodies of the poor, both at home and abroad.

The never-ending war on drugs comes to mind, which has often amounted instead to a war for control of the lucrative drug trade and has been exploited to justify all manner of US militarisation schemes and support for repressive international regimes. 

Victims have ranged from Latin American peasants to poor black communities in the US – like the ones ravaged in the 1980s by a crack cocaine epidemic that transpired when members of the US ruling elite thought it would be cool to facilitate drug trafficking by right-wing terrorist mercenaries intent on sabotaging the left-wing government in Nicaragua. 

But back to the future and the right-wing fanaticism of the Trump administration, intent on sabotaging the rights and dignity of poor women and numerous other humans in the US and beyond under the guise of “Protecting Life”.

Now, as Trump’s multifaceted wars rage on, one question remains more crucial than ever: How to go about aborting the whole accursed system?

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.