Pro-choice supporters protest in front of the Alabama State House as Alabama state Senate votes on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the United States at the Alabama Legislature in Montgomery earlier this month. File photo: Reuters
Pro-choice supporters protest in front of the Alabama State House as Alabama state Senate votes on the strictest anti-abortion bill in the United States at the Alabama Legislature in Montgomery earlier this month. File photo: Reuters

Local NGOs concerned over fallout from wave of anti-abortion laws in US

By Raphael Wolf Time of article published May 24, 2019

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Cape Town – Women in developing countries, including South Africa, who are dependent on US health assistance, have been bearing the brunt of increasingly conservative US anti-abortion policies for the past two years.

So said local civil society organisations SECTION 27 and Sonke Gender Justice, who are concerned at the recent wave of anti-abortion laws made under President Donald Trump’s administration.

Trump’s signing of the Alabama Human Life Protection Act was a direct attack against advancing sexual and reproductive rights of women globally, the organisations said in a joint statement.

“The Alabama law is the most restrictive law passed in the US to date, as it only allows for a woman to access an abortion if her life would be in danger and does not provide for exceptions in instances of rape or incest.

“Under the law, doctors who perform abortions could be jailed for up to 99 years. There have been other similar laws passed in the US this year, including in Ohio and Georgia where a ‘fetal heartbeat’ law prohibits abortions after a heartbeat is detected in an embryo, as early as five to six weeks into pregnancy.”

The Alabama act was likely to be legally challenged by those who believe that it was inconsistent with the US Supreme Court’s decision Roe v Wade in 1973, which protects a woman’s right to abortion within the US, said SECTION 27 and Sonke Gender Justice.

In 2017, Trump reinstated the Protecting Life in Global Health Insurance Policy - also known as the “Global Gag Rule” - that requires foreign NGOs accepting US global health funding to agree that they will not perform or “actively promote” abortion as a method of family planning.

US funding goes toward HIV/Aids, malaria and family planning, with many South African NGOs dependent on US global health assistance for the provision of critical health services, particularly relating to HIV treatment and reproductive health.

“We continue to monitor the impact of the Global Gag Rule. We stand in solidarity with movements resisting the erosion of women’s rights to dignity and autonomy across the world and in particular our allies in the US during these times of oppression,” the NGOs said.

Cape Times

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