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Women being held hostage by US politics in abortion debate

Sunday March 5 2017

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting about the federal budget in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC, February 22, 2017. He is against abortion. PHOTO | AFP 

By DOROTHY KWEYU
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Since US President Donald Trump took office, controversy continues to dog most of his executive orders.

Although his unabashed aversion to immigrants, especially Mexicans and Muslims from perceived ‘terrorist’ states, has hogged headlines, equally controversial was his reinstatement, on January 23, of a rule that blocks US funding to organisations linked to abortion.

Introduced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, the global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, targets international NGOs that offer services or advice on reproductive health services, if they include abortion.

Predictably, Trump’s decision has sparked international furore among pro-choice advocates, who claim the act has rolled back gains women have made in their quest for reproductive health rights.

In the war between the main US political parties — Republicans and Democrats — what is noteworthy is the way it has spilled over into the developing world.

As soon as Trump appended his signature to the executive order reinstating the Mexico City Policy — so-called because it was first implemented by Reagan during the 1984 UN Population Conference in Mexico — protesters took to the streets.

The Huffington Post noted the absence of women around Trump as he signed the order.

This is important because it underpins the gender dimensions of the abortion debate in which the real protagonists — women — have little say.

CONTRACEPTIVES

In the fierce battle for the woman’s body, both the Republicans and Democrats are up to no good.

Commercial interests under the pretext of championing women’s reproductive rights are more concerned with safeguarding the contraceptives market.

While a number of contraceptives and devices do, indeed, cause abortion by preventing a fertilised embryo from embedding in the womb, condoms have been proven to prevent the spread of sexually-transmitted infections when used properly.

As contraceptives, however, condoms have such a high failure rate that promoting them exposes women and girls to unwanted pregnancies.

I use ‘unwanted pregnancies’ advisedly, a term I consider a misnomer.

This is because the surest outcome of sex is pregnancy, notwithstanding its recreational value.

Pregnancy, both within or outside marriage has serious implications for the woman.

The problem with the pro-choice argument for liberalised contraceptives and abortion is that it lets men off the hook.

Women have become pawns in the big-stakes political game, which, in the US, has been replayed over the last 33 years since the Mexico population conference, with the gag rule being reinstated or lifted depending on who is in office.

Sadly, as women remain hostage to American politics, they lose sight of the real problem, which is society’s failure to demand male responsibility in sexual and reproductive health issues.

INCLUSIVITY

For, while they pop the contraceptive pills daily, never mind their proven dangers to women’s health, including high blood pressure and breast cancer, men walk away scot-free.

And when women become pregnant for failing to take precautions, men walk out on them unless the babies are born within matrimonial security.

I can hear protests of women who choose to get and raise babies on their own; but that is a story for another day.

What the pro-choice lobby hides is that although women have very few days in which they can conceive in a monthly cycle, commercial interests have prevented use of safer methods, which demand male cooperation.

Women have fallen for the trick, believing that they are being denied sexual freedom, when, in fact, they have nothing to lose and only their respect to gain by demanding male cooperation in making safe reproductive choices.

Ms Kweyu is a freelance writer and consulting editor. [email protected]