It’s National Women’s Health Week, and it’s a great time to think about what you can do to improve your health (like scheduling that doctor’s appointment you have been putting off)! It’s also a good opportunity to reflect on the importance of U.S. leadership in supporting women’s health globally.
In this highly charged, hyper-partisan political atmosphere, bipartisan work on a range of issues is much more challenging than in days past — and international women’s health is no exception.
However, I am pleased that two Republican Senators are standing up for women around the world by co-sponsoring the Global Democracy Promotion Act (GDPA): Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois have joined with 16 Senate Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders to sign on to this important act. They should be applauded for demonstrating that women’s health isn’t a partisan issue!
The GDPA would benefit women and families around the world by preventing politics from interfering with women’s health. The proposed law would block a future president from reinstating the harmful global gag rule, which prohibits foreign organizations that receive U.S. international family planning funds from providing information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or for advocating for the legalization of abortion in their own country — even if these activities are supported with their own, non-U.S. funding. When in place, the gag rule interferes with the doctor-patient relationship, limits free speech, and impedes women’s access to health services. The global gag rule is not currently in effect, but every year congressional opponents of women’s health make numerous attempts to reinstate it.
The global gag rule has played politics with women’s health and lives for over 30 years and Senators Collins and Kirk understand that politicians shouldn’t come between a woman and her doctor, no matter where she lives. Using U.S. foreign aid as a tool to limit women’s access to health care and to censor free speech is inconsistent with American values and is clearly government overreach into the private lives of women across the world. Many developing countries are stepping up to invest in women — including by expanding access to health programs — and putting the gag rule back in place would seriously impede these efforts. The U.S. should build on, not stand in the way of progress.
Senators Collins and Kirk, thank you for your continued leadership in supporting women’s reproductive health globally by championing a permanent repeal of the harmful global gag rule. Your voice and votes are needed, especially as we head into appropriations season where we see attempts each year to reinstate the gag rule and cut funding for international family planning programs. We hope more members of Congress from both sides of the aisle join you.
If you would like to get more involved you can call your senator and ask that they sign on to co-sponsor the Global Democracy Promotion Act.
You also can join Republicans for Planned Parenthood!
Kim Smith is the Republican Outreach Manager for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.