Fans of JK Rowling will know that she’s not exactly Donald Trump’s biggest fan. She was comparing him (unfavourably) to Voldemort way back in December 2015, and since then has turned tearing him apart on Twitter into something of an art form.
So it’s not surprising that the bestselling author has something to say about Trump’s recent reinstating of a rule that will make it much harder for women around the world to gain access to safe, legal abortions.
Trump signed the global gag rule, otherwise known as the Mexico City Policy, on Monday. The anti-abortion edict denies foreign aid or federal funds to organisations around the world that provide or even discuss abortions with women, effectively banning US-funded groups from so much as mentioning terminations during conversations about reproductive healthcare.
There is significant evidence to suggest that banning abortion does not stop the practice – it simply forces women to turn to more dangerous methods. Writing on Twitter, Rowling said that Trump’s reinstatement of the global gag rule (which was lifted by Barack Obama when he took office in 2009) would mean that the 47,000 women who already die from unsafe abortions every year will likely be joined by more.
Trump’s “belief that [the global gag rule] will stop abortion” was “mistaken”, Rowling said. “It never has. It just makes it more unsafe.”
Screenshotting a study by the Guttmacher Institute, a US research organisation focused on sexual and reproductive health, the author pointed out that the gag rule led to thousands of women’s lives being put at risk when it was instated during George W. Bush’s time in office.
Family planning services in countries such as Kenya were forced to deny healthcare to people living in poor or rural areas as a result of the rule, with many women being denied access to contraceptive services.
Government clinics in these countries were “never able to pick up the slack nor regain the trust of women turned away by the NGOs”, according the study.
Around 22 million unsafe abortions are performed every year, but there is scant evidence that restrictive abortion laws lead to lower abortion rates. Indeed, different research by the Guttmacher Institute shows that the abortion rate is actually slightly higher in countries where the procedure is prohibited or only allowed to save a woman’s life.
Predictably, Rowling’s tweets prompted a firestorm of support and condemnation from pro-choice and anti-choice followers alike. The author singled out a few of the most depressing – and bizarre – responses with her trademark steel, telling one commenter who attempted a “pussy” joke: “You’d better hope there’s no hell.”
When another Twitter user cited the movie Vera Drake – in which Imelda Staunton, aka Dolores Umbridge, plays a well-meaning backstreet abortionist in 1950s London – as an example of how safe illegal abortions can really be, Rowling could hardly contain her scorn.
A group of senators from both the Republican and Democratic parties introduced the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act on Tuesday, the day after Trump reinstated the global gag rule, in the hope of permanently repealing the harmful policy. However, because the act is being introduced into a Republican-controlled Congress, the chances of it being passed are slim.
Images: Rex Features