The Global Gag Rule instituted by Donald Trump a year ago “prohibits U.S. global health assistance from being provided to foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that perform abortion in cases other than a threat to the life of the woman, rape or incest; provide counseling (including advice or information) and/or referral for abortion; or lobby to make abortion legal or more available in their own country, even if these activities are performed with funding from other, non-U.S. government (USG), sources” (from PAI). Health care workers in South Africa have a duty to counsel and refer women for abortion services under current South African law, and the Rule would not apply in these situations (see amfAR and CHANGE “The Implications of the Expanded U.S. Mexico City Policy in South Africa“)
Sonke has chosen not to sign the Global Gag Rule because we know the costs it represents to women’s health and lives in South Africa and across the continent and the world.
This means we, like many other organisations, can not apply for funding currently on offer from the US Government to address gender based violence and HIV, even though we’ve now built very strong evidence from many studies that our work decreases levels of gender based violence, increases people’s use of HIV services and strengthens their commitment to take local action to address GBV and HIV.
We have attempted to ameliorate the effects of the GGR by applying for an exemption from the Policy. We wrote to Secretary of the US Department of State, Rex Tillerson on 12 February 2018, requesting that we are exempted from the Policy. We have received no reply to date.
Sonke remains committed to advocating for access to safe and legal abortion as guaranteed by the 1997 Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act. We know that the passage of this Act brought dramatic improvements in women’s health and well-being: high morbidity from incomplete abortions halved between 1994 (16.5%) & 2000 (9.5%), permanent genital injuries from incomplete abortions decreased from 3.2% (1994) to 0.6% (2000), and, strikingly, there was a 91.1% reduction in deaths to women due to abortion.