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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: Sexual Assault Survivors Could Lose Health Access Under Trump

The Trump administration has become increasingly emboldened in its bid to roll back women’s reproductive rights. The latest in this strategy of ideology over evidence is the administration’s recent move to prohibit the UN Security Council from approving language that would help survivors of sexual violence that occurs during war.

In a paper published in The Hill, Mr. Terry McGovern, JD, professor and chair of population and family health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, writes that the administration’s actions will have devastating consequences. In conflicts throughout the world, sexual violence against women is widespread and strategic. Denying access to health care to survivors of sexual violence is a violation of their basic human right to health.

Survivors of sexual violence need and have organized for a variety of critical services. In some cases, they need abortion services if they were raped during conflict. Public health experts universally recognize these services as the standard of care for survivors of sexual assault.

One of Trump’s first acts in office was to sign an expanded global gag rule, which denies funding to nongovernmental / nonprofit organizations (NGOs) that provide abortion counseling, or expand abortion services. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was banned from using the words “fetus,” “transgender” and “science-based” in its budget documents.

The Administration’s attacks on the rights of women threaten to turn back decades of progress, notes Mr. McGovern, who is the founding director of the Global Health Justice and Governance Program at Columbia. As we mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, advocates are not sitting idly by, but are meeting this blatant disregard for women’s health with widespread condemnation.

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