We will not be silent: Safe abortion care is health care

Doctors Without Borders
6 min readJan 23, 2020

On the anniversary of the Global Gag Rule, we’re launching a free, open-source, evidence-based online course on medication abortion. An abortion with pills is simple, safe, and effective — even for those in the hardest to reach places.

Dr. Manisha Kumar MD, MPH is a family medicine doctor and Head of the Task Force on Safe Abortion Care at Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Talking about abortion is not a crime.

These days, however, health care providers and humanitarian workers who receive US funding overseas risk being shut down if they do just that.

The Global Gag Rule — which President Donald Trump reinstated and expanded on January 23, 2017 — prohibits doctors, nurses, and other health workers around the world from even speaking about abortion. If they do, they could lose their US government funding. Health workers are relied upon to provide thorough, evidence-based medical information, and now they’ve been silenced in the places where that information is needed the most.

I’m a doctor and, for the past three years, I’ve travelled the world talking about abortion. Almost everywhere I go, it’s not a topic that is openly discussed — even with other health care workers. Many of them tell me they didn’t learn about abortion during their training. Abortion wasn’t even mentioned, despite how common it is.

The fact is that one in four pregnancies ends in induced abortion. That means that, chances are, someone you know has had an abortion. But because there is so much stigma and shame around abortion, it can be difficult for people to talk about freely, let alone share their experiences and learn from each other.

Despite the stigma, abortion is a part of people’s lives and a key component of reproductive health care. It’s essential that health care workers, humanitarian workers — and everyone for that matter — know the basics about abortion.

Doctors Without Borders

Medical aid org working globally to assist people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe. http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org