While Senegal has made gains in health indicators, socio-economic barriers impede access to sexual and reproductive health services, particularly for underserved rural and youth populations. Senegal’s penal code forbids induced abortion under any circumstance, and cultural and religious norms around family planning limit contraceptive uptake. Even in this restrictive setting for quality, legal abortion, the Trump-Pence administration’s expanded Global Gag Rule is having harmful impacts. In Senegal, the policy actively undermines demand generation for and expanded access to family planning—and it threatens to derail legislation which would increase the availability of high-quality, safe abortion care for women and girls.
The Global Gag Rule prohibits foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from using their private, non-U.S. funds to provide comprehensive, safe abortion services; information or referrals for abortions; or to advocate for the legalization of safe abortion services for reasons other than life endangerment, rape or incest if they want to continue receiving U.S. global health assistance. Importantly, the expanded Global Gag Rule applies to all U.S. global health assistance, impacting not just reproductive health and family planning, but mat-ernal and child health; HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment; as well as other health programming.
In June and July 2018, PAI conducted fact-finding trips to Dakar, Senegal to document the preliminary impacts of the Global Gag Rule. Foreign NGO implementers leading outreach with mobile clinics and social franchises have been hit hardest by the double loss of U.S. funding and the rupture of partnerships with U.S. NGOs. These impacts are devastating for a country like Senegal, with high numbers of hard-to-reach, rural populations. The policy is also affecting advocacy efforts to revive a long-awaited sexual and reproductive health law that would allow for termination of pregnancy in the instance of rape or incest. This would begin to bring the country’s law in line with commitments to regional human rights instruments, as well as with the abortion exceptions allowed under the Global Gag Rule.