A sweeping directive banning U.S. funding for international NGOs that provide abortion services is expected to reduce Cambodian women’s access to abortions and could lead to a rise in unsafe procedures, an international NGO said on Wednesday.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday reinstated the Mexico City policy, an executive memorandum that blocks U.S.-funded organizations around the world from providing counseling or referrals for abortion, or advocating for access to abortion.
The decision to restore the intermittent policy, created under former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1984, was anticipated by reproductive health NGO Marie Stopes International (MSI), a leading service provider that in 2015 performed 42,800 abortions in Cambodia—one of the few Southeast Asian nations where abortion is legal.
Kelvin Hayes, MSI Cambodia’s interim country director, said the policy would cause women to lose access to contraception, reduce their ability to prevent unplanned pregnancy and lead to a rise in unsafe abortions and maternal deaths.
He said the organization would forfeit its funding from the U.S. so that it could continue to provide safe abortions in seven clinics located across the country.
“It is not going to affect our provision of safe abortion services. That would continue,” he said. “It’s about women who will lose access to contraception; it’s about providers who will not perhaps be receiving extra training from us on the provision of contraception. So it is hard to quantify.”
Anticipating the move, MSI began holding discussions with other potential donors last year, seeking to fill the gap left by the future loss of $30 million in annual funding from the U.S. government.
Directors of the Reproductive and Child Health Alliance and the Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC) could not be reached on Wednesday. Both NGOs provide family planning and other health care services and receive USAID funding, according to their websites.
Chak Chenda has managed RHAC’s clinic in Sen Sok district for 14 years, often performing surgical and medical abortions on women.
“There are many reasons why [a woman] comes here. One reason, it is an unwanted pregnancy,” she said, adding that patients occasionally came to her clinic after attempting crude abortion practices, such as drinking alcohol.
“I think it is important because the woman, she needs someone to help her and someone to provide a safe service for her,” she said.
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