President Donald Trump’s dramatic expansion of a policy blocking U.S. aid to organisations offering abortion services will have one sure result, say medical workers in this city: more abortions.
The United States reinstated the “Mexico City Policy” in January, cutting some $600 million in funds for family planning programmes overseas.
Last week its scope suddenly mushroomed. Trump expanded it to affect $8.8 billion worth of global health funding, including programmes on HIV/AIDS, malaria and child health.
The extension requires all health organisations receiving U.S. aid to guarantee they do not provide abortion services or discuss abortion policy, even if the abortion-related activities are funded by non-U.S. government sources.
The policy means cuts to programmes like the one run by Kenyan nurse Monica Oguttu, who founded the Kisumu Medical and Education Trust to help poor women get health care and education in the country’s third largest-city.
The trust had been scheduled to receive a total of $2 million from USAID from 2017 to 2021, around 56 percent of its budget. It now expects to lose all its U.S. funding.
Oguttu founded the organisation after discovering that half of the women in her gynaecological ward in a Nairobi teaching hospital were there because of the damage done by backstreet abortions.
“One in five of them went home in a coffin,” she said. “There was a 17-year-old girl who had lost her uterus and had damage to her rectum. She went home with a colostomy bag … We would like to save these women.”
The Mexico City Policy, started in 1984, has in the past been routinely rescinded under Democratic administrations and reinstated under Republican ones.
Oguttu said she remembered when President George Bush reinstated the policy in 2001. Aid groups had to shut eight clinics in Kenya and hike prices in others, according to a study by the Washington D.C.-based Population Action International.
“Suddenly there were no contraceptive methods,” she said. “We had so many more complications having to do with post-abortion care from unsafe abortions … We saw it happen last time and we dread it coming again.”
Cuts will force Oguttu’s trust to start charging for contraceptives which are currently free, she said.
The Kenyan health ministry, recently rocked by strikes in public hospitals and a major corruption scandal, did not return calls seeking comment.