Women everywhere want healthy families. Across the globe, they know that access to family planning supports their own health and that of their families. Family planning is essential to overcoming poverty, which deepens when individuals can’t choose the size of their family. Yet 214 million women worldwide lack access to contraception.

Traveling in the developing world with Pathfinder International, I heard story after story about how women want to have fewer children. And girls long for more education but are forced to marry at a young age. Pregnancy and childbirth-related complications are the No. 1 killers of young women aged 15 to 19 in developing countries. Access to information and contraceptives could protect the lives of these women and girls.

Despite the hostility of the administration of President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to reproductive health and rights, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee understand the importance of family planning. The budget they approved includes additional funding for global family planning and reproductive health and permanently repeals the global gag rule.

The global gag rule denies funding to international clinics that talk about or provide abortions, leaving health care providers with an impossible choice: Accept needed funding and withhold full and medically accurate information from their patients, or refuse to lie to patients and lose vital funding for critical services, including maternal care, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, and family planning.

Reduced access to contraception leads to more unwanted and high-risk pregnancies, unsafe abortions and maternal illness, injury and death. Despite the intent of its supporters, the global gag rule actually increases the number of abortions and unsafe abortions.

I applaud Sen. Susan Collins and her Senate Appropriations Committee colleagues for standing up for women not just in the U.S. but also around the globe. Her vote means we have a chance to end this dangerous policy that only serves to hurt women and girls.

Julia G. Kahrl, Ph.D.


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