As an American, the news foremost on my mind this month is the recent election for the next President of the United States. It‚Äôs an election that I haven‚Äôt followed as closely as many others did, preferring only to cast my vote, rather than watch the nation – and even those close to me – become divided on politics. It was, after some years of personal hardship, just too much to become further involved in.
On election night, already fed up with what had been months of ugly campaigning, I vowed not to sit in front of the television and watch the results. We‚Äôd know soon enough, I thought. In some ways, it was still unfathomable to me that a man¬†whose campaign had relied on pure hatred would win.
Yet as the hours passed, and I tried to distract myself, I finally succumbed. I turned on Twitter, hoping for a quick update. Within minutes, I was crying. He¬†had won. A man whose words, deeds, and suggested policies blatantly discriminated – even, some might say, targeted – minorities and women had become the President of the United States.
Now, I recognize that just this past week, there has been a massive call for a recount of the votes – and in fact, Wisconsin is recounting votes. Other states may as well. The Electoral College – the very institution set by America‚Äôs founding fathers to ensure that only qualified individuals could attain the nation‚Äôs highest office – has yet to meet and formally declare a winner.
There‚Äôs still a chance that Hillary Clinton could win.
I don‚Äôt want to spend the length of this podcast debating America‚Äôs institutions or policies or its current predicament. There‚Äôs much more pressing in the world to attend to. Yet who becomes America‚Äôs next President will have a profound impact on women – not just in my nation, but all around the world. Only days into the start of the President‚Äôs term, our next leader will face a critical decision on women‚Äôs reproductive health. That decision is known as the Global Gag Rule, or formally, the Mexico City Policy. Enacted in 1984 by former President Reagan, and later suspended under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the rule prohibits groups receiving United States‚Äôs aid from providing abortions or even counseling patients about the procedure. If the next President reinstates this procedure, clinics around the world that provide critical services and access to contraception for women could close, and the effects would be dire.
The United States is the biggest donor in the world for women‚Äôs health in developing countries, and a policy like the Mexico City Policy would limit women‚Äôs reproductive freedom and their ability to control their fertility. Why is that important? Because controlling fertility allows a woman to control her life. By empowering women with tools and resources to choose when they get pregnant – and when they do not – we enable women to become more active in the global economy as workers and leaders in their communities. We open the door to helping them break out of the cycle of poverty, ensuring that they are able to live within their means, provide for themselves and their families, and contribute to a better, brighter future for us all.
One of the companies that could be affected by this decision is Marie Stopes International, one of the biggest providers of women‚Äôs reproductive health services in the world. After the devastating April 2015 earthquake in Nepal, the organization provided lifesaving services to those affected, including over 2,800 general and gynecological examinations, 586 contraceptive-implant insertions, distributed 355 safe-delivery kits to new mothers, and administered 886 pre- and postnatal visits to ensure the health of affected mothers and their children. Should the Mexico City Policy be enacted, they could lose their funding. And the communities that need help the most will suffer greatly. The number of unsafe abortions and unwanted pregnancies will rise. And the cycle of poverty will continue – or worse. A recent report found that 22,000 women die and 8.4 million suffer serious illness or injury after undergoing unsafe abortions because they cannot access the reproductive health services they need.
And the next President of the United States has the power to control their fate. It – along with so much else – is a terrifying thought of what the next four years in America might bring to the world.
For more election coverage and updates on the status of girls around the world, listen in to our latest News Roundup on Podbean or iTunes. And if you like what you hear, consider donating to help support future production of GirlSpeak and our upcoming project, Girl News International.
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