Your say / Bristol Green Party

‘We need to put women’s rights before trade deals’

By molly scott cato, Tuesday Mar 7, 2017


Women across the world are fighting back against Trump misogyny, and some governments are supporting them. Perhaps, given that infamous hand-hold, we should not be surprised that our government isn’t one of them.

But, right now, we need to send out a clear signal about the importance of safeguarding women’s rights worldwide.

While it may have failed to receive the same publicity as many of Trump’s deplorable executive orders, one of his first actions was to reinstate and radically expand the so-called ‘Global Gag Rule’. This rule relates to blocking US funding from any international NGOs that provide abortion services or offer information about abortions.

These organisations, which provide vital health services for women, like contraception, family planning, maternal health and HIV/AIDS prevention, are now at risk of losing funding if they also offer advice about abortion.

This move is a blatant attack on the sexual and reproductive health rights of women, and will have dramatic consequences for millions of women and girls worldwide. Unsafe abortions are a major cause of maternal mortality, killing tens of thousands of women every year.

But the policy also fails its own test. Studies into the impacts of the policy implemented by George W. Bush in 2001, and rescinded by Obama in 2009, show that the policy not only led to more unwanted pregnancies, but also failed to reduce the number of abortions. The studies also showed the Global Gag Rule affected family planning, HIV services, maternal and child health, and even malaria services.

I was pleased the European Parliament adopted a resolution last month strongly condemning the Global Gag Rule, and calling on EU countries to urgently and significantly increase sexual and reproductive health and rights funding, by “launching an international fund to finance access to birth control and safe and legal abortion”.

On cue, some countries have rallied to the defence of women against Trump’s assaults. The Dutch government has taken a lead, setting up the She Decides initiative, pledging a donation of €10m towards organisations affected by the cuts.

Other EU countries, together with Canada and Australia, have followed suit. To date, ministers from six European countries have pledged to make funds available to counter the Global Gag Rule: The Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Luxembourg.

Notably absent from the list is our own development secretary, Priti Patel, who surely understands the globally recognized fact that gender ,equality and the empowerment of women is a precondition for advancing development and reducing poverty. No word either from the minister for women and equalities, Justine Greening, who has so far resisted an appeal from her Dutch counterpart to stand up against Trump’s attack on women’s reproductive rights. If she cannot support efforts against the Global Gag Rule, ‘women’ and ‘equalities’ should not stand together in a ministerial department.

We need our government to end the hand-holding with a misogynistic president; we need to put women’s rights and equality before securing dodgy trade deals with the US. Women deserve better. On International Women’s Day, we look to our female prime minister and her female ministers to join the global campaign for women’s rights and keep us at the forefront of global support for women’s equality.

It is Trump and his prejudiced administration that needs gagging. It is up to women around the world to stand in solidarity and shout loudly against back-pedalling on equal rights. We will fight back. Every woman, no matter where, has the right to decide over her own body: she decides.

Molly Scott Cato is Green MEP for the South West of England.


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