Today is Blog for Choice day in the US. Every year for the past six years, NARAL Pro-Choice America has been virtually gathering bloggers to get people talking on issues surrounding reproductive rights in celebration of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
The question for this year – “Given the anti-choice gains in the states and Congress, are you concerned about choice in 2011?”
So why am I blogging for choice on an Ethiopian focused blog addressing a question that clearly deals with US politics? Because I feel that Republican anti-choice rhetoric impacts US global development policy bringing reproductive rights and abortion debates into global health discussions.
What is the policy impact?
Ethiopia had been selected in 2009 by the Obama administration as one of eight focus countries for the new Global Health Initiative (GHI) which aims to invest $63 billion over six years to help strengthen the health system of selected countries with a special focus on women and girls. The GHI will also build on Bush’s PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) program to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS. However, unlike his predecessor, Obama’s GHI initiative extends funding to family planning and reproductive & sexual health programs, confirming their inextricable link to the HIV epidemic which PEPFAR programming failed to do. This integration of HIV issues to reproductive health/rights addresses the needs of women and girls who are at high risk of both HIV infection and unwanted pregnancy.
What does this mean?
I feel that the growing influence of the extreme right and related anti-choice gains at the domestic level will soon thereafter have a spill over on international policy. Therefore, this rehashes the conservative approach to addressing the health concerns of women and girls in funding recipient countries like Ethiopia. Moreover, with the Republican gain in Congress, there is talk already of cutting spending on the Global Health program, before it has even began to achieve its aim. This combination of funding cuts and anti-choice conversations, I suspect, will undoubtedly affect the important link between HIV spread control and reproductive health/rights that the GHI has connected.
The GHI woman-centered approach means addressing the health needs of women and girls from a holistic perspective and acknowledging their rights, of which the right to choose is one. The success of the GHI was also on lifting Bush’s Global Gag Rule on USAID funding, which prohibited the use of PEPFAR funding for family planning programs with the aim of making abortion rare. This disregarded the effects of unsafe abortions on women and girls where family planning services are not administered and where choice itself is contested!
Abortion in Ethiopia
The administration and procurement of abortion in Ethiopia is a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment as outlined in Article 545 of the Federal criminal code until a revision in 2004. The revision articulated in Article 551 permits the procurement of abortion by a recognized medical institution under certain conditions. In 2006, the Ethiopia Ministry of Health released guidelines for safe abortion services that ensure more women and girls access safe abortion care, rather than the life-threatening back-alley procedures that maim and kill thousands of Ethiopian women and girls annually. While pro-choice issues are culturally stifled, nevertheless the availability and easy access to family planning services for those in need should not be something that is compromised by program cuts derived from conservative foreign policy ideals and which in cases are dependent on external funding.
Love & Light