The Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) is set to lose funding from United States donors for one of its programmes as a result of the reinstatement by US president Donald Trump of the Mexico City policy, also called the global gag rule, which bars US federal funding for overseas groups that provide access to or counselling about abortions.
It was not immediately clear how big a hit it will take, and Executive Director Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland said the BFPA did not rely heavily on US government or other external funding sources, therefore its core programmes would not be affected by the Trump administration policy.
However, she said there was the possibility the local organization could lose US funding for its ongoing HIV programme since that programme was partially supported by a US-funded international non governmental organization, which must comply with the order.
“We are uncertain and we are currently awaiting a formal advisory about the status of our US funded projects from our US funders. BFPA stands in solidarity with our sister organizations across the globe who rely heavily on US funding. BFPA cannot sign any commitments that go against the laws of Barbados, our core public health mission for women and families, and our historical role in Barbados’ socio-economic development,” Bynoe-Sutherland indicated.
Introduced by President Ronald Reagan at a United Nations conference in Mexico City in 1984, the policy, dubbed the global gag rule by abortion-rights groups, was overturned by Bill Clinton in 1993, reinstated under George W Bush in 2001 and rescinded by Barack Obama on his third day in office in 2009.
Dozens of organizations issued a coalition statement on Monday against the policy, arguing it wound not stop abortions, just make them less safe.
The International Planned Parenthood Federation said it would rather lose the $100 million in US aid that it receives rather than abide by the policy restrictions.
The BFPA sounded a similar tone, with Bynoe-Sutherland insisting the organization was bound by Barbadian law and its own responsibility to ensure easy access to family planning services and safe abortions and in turn limit the number of potentially deadly backroom practices.
“This issue of unsafe abortions has been relegated to the historical dust heap in Barbados by esteemed public health physicians, politicians and social planners in the 1970s and 1980s. We have had a Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act since 1983. The gag rule compels us to choose between being silent about a lawful service for women and receiving international funding from US government sources. This is not much of a choice.
“BFPA cannot sign any gag order preventing work or advice on family planning and abortion issued by the United States government, as the work of the association on family planning and abortions is in compliance with the sovereign laws of Barbados and women in Barbados view these services as essential health and guard these rights jealously,” she said.
The spokeswoman said it would therefore be “virtually impossible and ill-advised for any organization working on women’s sexual and reproductive health issues to be silent on the issue of contraceptives and termination”.
Marie Stopes International, a UK-based aid group that provides abortion services and contraception around the world, said 21.6 million women put their lives on the line each year by risking unsafe abortion.
“Thousands of them die, and millions more are left with life altering injuries,” the director of the group’s international operations Marjorie Newman-Williams said.