At a recent interview with the APP, Representative Chris Smith made a statement regarding his stance on abortion. Not surprisingly, the co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus is vehemently against abortion and has gone back and forth regarding whether he approves of various types of birth control. What was a bit shocking was his claim that abortion is, in many cases, “harmful to the mother.”
A recent study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has concluded that abortions are safe and not at all harmful to the mother. It was found that there was no long term effect on a woman’s physical or mental health. Perhaps the only things that make abortions less safe are the ill-informed rules states or governments mandate women go through, all of which Mr. Smith has promoted. Delays and extra procedures are misleading and have no basis in medical facts. Based on this research, Smith’s statement that abortions are harmful to mothers is unequivocally false.
Representative Smith is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. His blindly aggressive pro-life stance directly affects those his subcommittee is trying to protect. In January of 2017, Trump reinstated the ‘global gag rule’ which bans federal funding from going to any international health organization that counsels women regarding family planning and mentions safe access to abortion as a choice. None of these organizations force abortions – it is simply offered as a choice in certain circumstances. This in turn takes away funding from these same women and denies them access to birth control, sex education, HIV testing, prenatal care and maternal medicine. On May 15, 2017, Trump expanded the global gag rule to affect nearly 8.8 billion dollars in global health funding. Research has shown that this disproportionately affects those in the developing world, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa.
It is both ironic and devastating that two of Smith’s top interests in Washington are directly at odds with each other. Cutting funding to international health groups due to the very mention of abortion harms women on so many different fronts. It harms women by keeping them from preventing an unwanted pregnancy through birth control. It harms women by making STD testing and sex education inaccessible. And, perhaps the greatest irony, it harms women by cutting funding to maternal health care which, in turn, can greatly harm the unborn child whom Smith champions as those who “deserve our love and respect”.
Chris Smith has been a vocal supporter of a pro-life agenda for his entire career. One as well versed on the subject should have a better understanding of the facts involved and the consequences that his policies have. Letting his personal religious beliefs blind him to the point of cutting funding from maternal medicine in the area of the world that he has been asked to pay special attention to would seem to be the very definition of harmful.