Reproductive healthcare: There is cautious hope for the future

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Although President Donald Trump has constantly refused to concede, asking multiple states for recounts, it is inevitable that former Vice President Joe Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021. There are a lot of problems Trump has caused, perpetuated and enabled that will hopefully be addressed. One of these notable issues revolves around abortion and reproductive healthcare. 

During his first few days as president, Trump reinstated the “Mexico City Policy,” colloquially known as the “Global Gag Rule.” Trump is certainly not the first president to do this; the policy was first enacted under President Ronald Reagan in 1984, then discontinued by President Bill Clinton, later reinstituted by President George W. Bush and then rescinded by President Barack Obama. In January 2017, when Trump took office, he reinstituted the policy once again with more restrictions than it has previously had. 

Essentially, what the Mexico City Policy does is that all non-governmental organizations receiving U.S. funds must certify they will not perform or promote abortions in any way. Any NGO that does not comply with these rules will lose U.S. funding allocated for family planning. 

The effect that the Mexico City policy has on reproductive healthcare in general is devastating. Abortions are a part of healthcare; in certain cases, a person with a uterus could be receiving an abortion because carrying the pregnancy to viability could be dangerous for them, the fetus or both. In other cases, perhaps the person with a uterus cannot afford to take care of a child or simply doesn’t want to have a child. Regardless of the reason, abortions are a part of healthcare and should be treated as such. 

President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, after stepping off Marine One. Trump is returning from Camp David. Photo by Patrick Semansky/AP

However, many people continue to argue against abortions. When Trump reinstituted the Mexico City Policy, he extended the restrictions to cut approximately $8.8 billion in U.S. global health assistance. He also broadened the policy so that it not only affects abortions, but also affects funding for family planning, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, maternal health, nutrition and other health programs. 

The new form of the Mexico City Policy affects numerous NGOs that benefit communities all around the world. Many marginalized populations around the world, including those who live in rural areas and those who are considered low-income, are greatly affected by these changes to the Mexico City Policy. 

“The harm that has been done by the Trump administration — the harm that has impacted a lot of low-income and rural communities around access to basic family planning services — has been horrific,” Alexis McGill Johnson, the president of Planned Parenthood, said in an NPR article.  

On a domestic scale, Trump has made changes to Title X funding requirements, similar to the rules outlined in the Mexico City Policy, forcing many providers to leave the Title X funding program. Trump’s attack on reproductive healthcare has been horrifying. 

However, Biden will hopefully reverse some of these policies and advance reproductive healthcare — not to mention healthcare in general — after he is inaugurated. There is a lot to be done in order to further reproductive healthcare rights.  

Many past presidents of the Democratic Party have merely stopped the Mexico City Policy. This is simply placing a band-aid over a bullet hole, hoping that infection doesn’t set in at a later time. In this metaphor, the band-aid is the act of ceasing the policy, the bullet hole is the policy and the infection is a future president reinstituting the policy. What Biden needs to do instead, if he truly wants to further healthcare and make it more accessible, is to make sure the policy cannot be reinstituted in the future. 

Reproductive healthcare is often overlooked, and it is central to healthcare in general. 

One way to make sure that this happens is with the passage of the Global HER Act, which was introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY-17) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). Essentially, the act would prevent executive orders like the Mexico City Policy, which restricts U.S. aid to NGOs based on the medical care that the NGO provides. Although Biden cannot unilaterally pass this law, he can vocally support it, in hopes that it passes in both houses of Congress, and then sign it into law if and when it makes it to his desk. 

In order to advance reproductive healthcare in the U.S., from a domestic standpoint, Biden should change Title X funding back to what it was in order to ensure that organizations that promote reproductive healthcare, such as Planned Parenthood, receive proper funding. Reproductive healthcare is often overlooked, and it is central to healthcare in general. 

The Biden administration could potentially be instrumental in making reproductive healthcare more accessible to everyone, especially people with uteruses, across the U.S. and across the world. He should do what is right for people and ensure that reproductive health care is given the importance and funding it needs. 

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