Although we may feel removed from the actions of Donald Trump as Canadian university students, they have a larger impact on us as citizens of the world. As Trump issues controversial new decisions on reproductive health, we realize just how important reproductive rights are to our basic health as a society.
On Monday, Jan. 23, Trump signed an executive order to reinstate the Mexico City policy, a piece of legislation that prevents, with certain exceptions, taxpayer funds from going to international non-governmental organizations that provide any information on or access to abortion services.
This move comes just days after millions of women and their allies participated in marches around the globe to protest the president’s controversial stances on women’s rights, minority rights and reproductive justice, amongst other issues.
While it was already illegal for taxpayer dollars to directly fund abortion procedures, the new executive order now prevents overseas organizations from receiving U.S. family planning money if they offer abortion counselling or advocate for abortion as safe and reasonable — regardless of whether or not abortion is legal in that foreign country. These are organizations that provide essential health services to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.
Reinstating the Mexico City policy isn’t exactly an unexpected event. Since its creation in 1984, the policy has been revoked or reinstated numerous times, depending on whether or not it was a Democrat or a Republican in the White House.
However, when President George W. Bush reinstated the policy in 2001, the U.S. halted the shipping of contraceptives to more than 20 countries, abortion rates doubled in the same places and many organizations were forced to lay off staff.
Let’s be clear: these organizations do far more than provide access to abortion services — although it wouldn’t be bad even if they did. Reproductive health encompasses all kinds of services, including distributing condoms, providing STI treatment and healthcare for expectant mothers and new babies. Reproductive health is key to the health of an entire population.
Trump’s actions have caused the world to focus on reproductive and sexual health in a new and reinvigorated way. With that in mind, there are ways that we, as University of Saskatchewan students, can help promote reproductive health both at home and abroad.
One way you can help organizations affected by the Mexico City policy is to donate directly to those NGOs. Most organizations have a donation page on their website, and donations can easily be made online.
Closer to home, the U of S Students’ Union Women’s Centre is holding a menstrual product drive from Feb. 13-17 in the Arts Tunnel. The centre will be taking donations of unopened menstrual products such as pads, tampons and menstrual cups, along with monetary donations. Donations will be given to AIDS Saskatoon, which helps provide menstrual products to homeless or low-income people in need.
Donations can also come in the form of time. Volunteering is a great way to work towards reproductive justice in your community. Saskatoon Sexual Health — formerly Sexual Health Centre Saskatoon — is a community-based health clinic that specializes in sexual and reproductive health services. As a nonprofit, SSH relies on volunteers to help keep it running.
Another effective way to use your time is by learning and asking questions. Confused about different reproductive health services or how they’re implemented? Not sure how legislative policy works? Educate yourself. The Internet is a wealth of resources, and as they say, knowledge is power. Education is a great way to fight ignorance and figure out the reasons behind a cause or movement.
The next four years are going to be far from easy, but that doesn’t mean that we can or should give up. For better or worse, Trump has the world finally giving reproductive health the attention it deserves — even right here in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Emily Klatt / Sports & Health Editor
Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor