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World unites in fight against unsafe abortions

Various organisations from different parts of the world are coming forward to fund projects that promote contraception use and safe abortions

Updated: Mar 31, 2017 18:49 IST

Women are dying in large numbers around the world due to unsafe abortions(S Lewis, EngenderHealth)

New Delhi: International funders, both public and private, have increased global funding to promote contraception use and safe abortions to make up for the expected deficit because of Donald Trump’s reinstatement of the ‘Global Gag rule’.

The rule bans US federal funding for NGOs in foreign countries that handle sexual and reproductive health, especially abortion services or abortion advocacy.

The policy that is primarily anti-choice and anti-reproductive rights had led to America cutting back funds after Trump reinstated the rule in January this year, and resulted in a panic-like situation globally as experts feared it would have had implications on women’s health worldwide, including in India.

“Our work has not really suffered because of lack of funds as after the gag rule was reinstated other funding sources opened up for organisations like us. We got Europeans, private organisations and some individuals donating for us,” said Ulla E. Muller.

Read more: Eight countries sign up to counter Trump’s global anti-abortion move

Muller is the president and CEO of EngenderHealth, a New York-based leading global women’s health organization.

“We are seeing new resources being mobilised, with America backing off,” she said.

“We have seen an unprecedented support put forward since the political will change in America. We are protected by the Constitution of America, so we made an internal pledge that we won’t be silenced. ”

Muller was in India for a four-day global leaders’ team meet from EngenderHealth. Her area of specialisation includes rights of women and girls, human rights, poverty alleviation, and women’s sexual and reproductive health.

“We are launching a new strategy for access to contraceptives and following safe abortion practices in the next 5-10 years that includes macro-economic initiatives closely linked with sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Lack of access to contraception and safe abortion is a major public health crisis for poor women, with more than 5 million women undergoing unsafe abortions in India each year, owing to lack of access to safe, high-quality abortion care.

Death from unsafe abortions continues to be the third largest reason for maternal deaths in the country. Additionally, many young girls and women risk serious injury undergoing a backstreet abortion process.

These are women who want to avoid pregnancy but lack knowledge, agency and access to modern contraception or abortion.

Muller sees a change in the mind-set of the younger population that increasingly wants to access contraceptives, especially in India.

“It is a global trend but India is better placed by way of common understanding about family planning, and that can be built upon. It’s unlike some other countries we are active in, where they are totally closed to the idea of family planning.”

There is an estimated target of reaching 18 million women annually around the world by 2020.