Jan. 22 marked the 43rd anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, one that declared denying women the right to an abortion unconstitutional. Laws made with the purpose of restricting abortion were put under a strict scrutiny test to determine if they were constitutional. Most were struck down. This decision was a huge turning point for our country because it gave women power over their own bodies again. Today, however, our country remains polarized on the issue of outlawing or regulating abortion. In most polls, Americans are split almost right down the middle when asked if they identify as “pro-choice” or “pro-life.”
Since 1973, we have progressed women’s healthcare. Conditions for most women have certainly improved since Roe was decided. This does not mean, however, that we do not have work to do. Many states continue to draft and pass legislation with the intent of defunding Planned Parenthood, an organization dedicated to providing women with and educating them on the healthcare they direly need. This is particularly detrimental for lower-class families and minorities that rely heavily on these services. Speaking from experience, I would have been unable to obtain affordable birth control and reproductive care in high school without Planned Parenthood. It provides excellent services to millions of citizens, and, thanks to federal legislation, abortions are never funded by taxes or by anyone other than the recipient.
Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump signed an executive order on his first day in office — the day after the anniversary of Roe v. Wade — that restricts funding toward programs that promote abortive services similar to Planned Parenthood. This policy he reinstated will affect developing countries, not the United States. This is almost worse because, in many cases, these countries do not have means to affordable reproductive healthcare without this funding. This Mexico City policy he reinstated is known as the global gag rule. It prohibits U.S. funding from going to any international nongovernmental organizations that offer any types of reproductive healthcare or education if they include abortion in their programs.
It must be noted that there is already an amendment in place — the Helms Amendment — that prevents U.S. dollars from going toward abortion. This also ensures that no funding from the U.S. goes directly towards performing abortions overseas. So this executive order that was signed will have no effect whatsoever on abortions, but instead will prevent families in developing countries from getting the reproductive healthcare and family planning that they may desperately need.
Reproductive health advocates, like Amu Sijapati, president of the Family Planning Association of Nepal, are speaking out, stating that they are concerned that clinics will be closed in countries such as Nepal because they will not be able to operate without this funding. These cuts also mean that, because of the lack of funding, healthcare workers will lose their jobs. One of the worst things this gag rule includes is that it will prevent healthcare providers from advocating for safe abortion rights, meaning that these workers can no longer testify against illegal abortion. The signing of this executive order will send developing countries backward and has frightened abortion rights advocates in our own country.
This executive order has been signed multiple times, but it is time that we stop going backward with each new conservative president. Extensive research — some even conducted in Colorado — has shown giving women and men reproductive health care helps decrease abortion rates and is economically beneficial for the U.S. Cutting funding for these vital programs only means that more women will seek out illegal abortions or have children who they are unable to care for. Developing countries are in danger because of this executive order, and it is sounding as if our own country’s funding for Planned Parenthood may be in danger as well.
As a country, we must stand together and support our own women and their right to choose. We must stand with Planned Parenthood. What is important to consider when discussing abortion is not whether it is right or not, but whether it is anyone’s business besides the woman and her doctor. It is not. Women deserve quality reproductive healthcare worldwide, and we must not give up fighting for our women’s rights, no matter who is the president of the United States.