Restrictions on Reproductive Health Care Mean Women Everywhere are Hurting

Women’s health clinic in Uganda.
© Jonathan Torgovnik CC BY-NC 4.0

It’s been more than two years since President Trump expanded the Global Gag Rule (GGR), which withdrew funding for overseas institutions that offer services, counselling, referrals or information about abortions. Now the Crisis in Care report finds that the GGR implicates almost $9 billion in US foreign assistance and is causing unnecessary suffering for women and their communities.

The Rule operates in any country receiving US global health assistance regardless of the legal status of abortion, and threatens to stall the progress that had been made on lowering maternal mortality rates up to 2017, when it came into effect. One of the countries discussed in the Report is Nepal, where abortion has been legal since 2002; as a result, maternal deaths decreased from 539 per 100,000 live births in 1996 to 259 in 2016.
But because legitimate health organizations relying on US funding are barred from providing any type of abortion service, including informing women of this option where it is legal, progress has stalled, and many women are once again resorting to unsafe, clandestine abortions. The Global Gag Rule is denying reproductive healthcare to women in some of the world’s poorest countries.


But it isn’t only women in the developing world who are affected by lack of access to abortion services. Hard-fought access to reproductive rights in the United States is in danger of being curtailed and, despite the Canadian government’s announcement last week that it will increase funding for women’s health services worldwide (with half dedicated to ensuring women have access to safe abortions and reproductive-health services), there are still many barriers for women in Canada who hope to access safe abortion care at home, especially if they are past 20 weeks’ gestation. Women seeking late abortions in Canada generally do so for medical reasons pertaining to their own health or fetal abnormalities.

While there is no legal limit on abortion access in Canada, most are performed in the first trimester and many hospitals have their own regulations limiting the procedure to 24 weeks. In addition, in many cases, there is a lack of physicians trained in performing late abortions. Consequently, dozens of women seeking this procedure travel to the US each year.


High quality family planning empowers women, reduces maternal and childhood deaths and illnesses, and helps slow population growth. Affordable and accessible contraception reduces the number of abortions, but the availability of abortion  remains an important component of family planning and health care.

Societies in which women enjoy reproductive rights and can limit the size of their family benefit in many ways. At the personal level women have more autonomy, the community benefits from their higher level of education and participation, and the environment and biodiversity benefit from a  lighter human footprint.

Reproductive rights and health should be a priority for all governments. You can help Population Institute Canada to pursue its humanitarian and environmental objectives by taking the opportunity to speak up in your community, writing to your MP to share your concerns about growth, forwarding our releases to friends, and following us on social media.

Becoming a member of our organization or making a donation allows us to continue to raise awareness of the social, economic and environmental consequences of population growth, including how it inhibits sustainable development and the human rights aspiration of a majority of people worldwide.