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NIGERIAN WOMEN DEFY ‘GLOBAL GAG RULE’ AND OPT FOR FAMILY PLANNING SERVICES

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By Lisa Vives 

family

The “global gag rule” which denies women contraception and family planning counseling may have met its match in Nigeria’s northern region where women are proactively avoiding unwanted pregnancies with contraceptive pills dispensed by a major charity.

Women in the northern Nigerian state of Borno, displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency, have embraced the birth control pill campaign launched by the International Rescue Committee in the Bakassi camp.

Bakassi hosts over 21,000 people displaced from their homes by ongoing fighting between government forces and insurgents from Boko Haram.

The global gag rule bans funding for any international organization that offers or advises on abortion-related services in cases other than rape, incest or life endangerment. Originally established by Ronald Reagan in 1984, it has been rescinded by every Democratic president and reinstated by every Republican president.

This year President Trump expanded the gag rule to include all global health services that receive funding from the U.S., including programs that address HIV and infectious diseases such as Zika, malaria and Ebola.

Rachel Sunday Okoye, one of the midwives at the Bakassi camp, said that women “need family planning to plan their lives, organize and know what steps to take”.

More than 1,000 women have enrolled for the contraceptive program since January, according to the IRC.

The beneficiaries have the choice between an oral contraceptive, an implant under the skin or a hormonal injection, the effect of which lasts up to three months.

Hauwa Shekarau, the Nigerian director of the women’s health organization IPAS, warned that without family planning services, women may turn to unsafe abortions – a major contributor to the high maternal mortality rate in Nigeria.

“The Trump administration is playing politics with the lives of women in Africa,” Shekarau said. “The global gag rule means that more women in sub-Saharan Africa may die from unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortion.”

Other countries with IRC Family Planning programs include Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Myanmar and Pakistan. For more information, visit www.rescue.org

Credit GIN

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