The British government will today [6 Feb. '06] publicly defy the United States by giving money for safe abortion services in developing countries to organisations that have been cut off from American funding.
Nearly 70,000 women and girls died last year because they went to back-street abortionists. Hundreds of thousands of others suffered serious injuries.
Critics of America's aid policy say some might have lived if the US had not withdrawn funding from clinics that provide safe services - or that simply tell women where to find them.
The "global gag" rule, as it has become known, was imposed by President George Bush in 2001. It requires any organisation applying for US funds to sign an undertaking not to counsel women on abortion - other than advising against it - or provide abortion services.
The UK will today become the founder donor of a fund set up specifically to attempt to replace the lost dollars and increase safe abortion services.
Women's low status in many poor countries makes them vulnerable to sexual coercion, abuse and exploitation, says the report. Almost 50% of sexual assaults worldwide are against girls aged 15 or less.
The death and injury toll is highest in countries where abortion is illegal or severely restricted, as in Kenya, where some 30% to 50% of maternal deaths are a result of unsafe abortion.
The Family Planning Association of Kenya, an [International Planned Parenthood Federation] member, chose to forfeit US funds rather than sign the "global gag" clause. It was forced to close three reproductive health clinics, scale back others and slash outreach programmes.
I like something the director of IPPF said:
What I've never been able to figure out about American policy is why they persist in cutting down funding to organisations that are about preventing unwanted pregnancies.
I can't figure it out either.