Health officials discussed the repercussions associated with President Trump’s Global Gag Rule at No Options: Voices from the Frontlines of Global Reproductive Healthcare Thursday evening at Colorado State University.
Speakers included women’s rights advocate Lisa Shannon, Family Health Options Kenya Director of Clinical Services Amos Simpano, and Kibera Clinic Director Melvine Ouyo.
Fight for Her and Students United for Reproductive Justice organized the event in the hopes of informing students at CSU about the implications of Trump’s Global Gag Rule on Kenya, Somalia and Kongo.
“A lot of times we talk about reproductive health policy,” Shannon said. “It’s one thing when you hear the statistics, and it’s completely different when you have a chance to actually sit with people like Amos and Melvine who spend every day… (serving) Kenyan woman and girls, families, and babies, and firsthand know what the Global Gag rule is actually going to cost.”
Ouyo, born and raised in Kenya, recounted her experiences with women who were sexually and physically abused in her country. She cited these encounters as the initiating factor in her passion for providing services to women in Kenya, and works tirelessly as an advocate for women’s rights.
Simpano became involved with women’s health because of his concern for women’s rights. He stepped up against his community, and devoted his life to protecting reproductive rights for women.
“In my community we have girls like you,” Simpano addressed the room. “But the unfortunate thing for girls in my own community is that only one of them has gone to school to get an education, and then all of them will have experienced female genital mutilation.”
The Global Gag Rule states any organization receiving financial support from the U.S. cannot be related to abortion. In 2008, George W. Bush implemented this agreement which President Obama rescinded upon his election, providing more opportunities and support for women’s reproductive rights, both at home and overseas, according to Shannon.
With that being said, referrals are required in order for abortions to be approved. Women must make their case for an abortion. Often these requests are denied, despite supporting evidence, Shannon said.
Shannon highlighted the lack of availability of referrals in Kenya, and the stigma associated with the word ‘abortion’.
Abortion makes up very little of the care Ouyo provides, the rest being contraception, counseling services, cervical cancer screening, HIV treatment and more, in 16 clinics. However, the stigma remains.
Since FHOK did not sign the Global Gag Rule agreement, outreach services ceased, nearly half of the 16 clinics are closing and prevention methods are no longer an option, as a result of funding cuts. The solution? Charging women a fee, an option both Ouyo and Simpano agreed is absurd and against the company’s ideals.
“There’s a lot of power in the room that is hard to wrap your head around, moment to moment,” Shannon said, in terms of the strength in numbers and the positive impact discussions such as these have.
For more information on how students can get involved in reproductive rights both on campus and abroad, students can connect with the SURJ organization on campus.
Collegian reporter Audrey Weiss can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @audkward.