President Obama repealed the global gag rule in his first week in office, but we have yet to see the end of this harmful policy. Just yesterday, opponents of women’s health in the House wrote language echoing the global gag rule into the House foreign operations bill. If passed, this legislation would impose dangerous restrictions on foreign aid, limit women’s access to health care and undercut U.S. development objectives by weakening civil society.
In response to the House bill, Representative Nita Lowey introduced the Global Democracy Promotion Act (Senator Barbara Boxer introduced a parallel bill in the Senate earlier this year). If passed, the Global Democracy Promotion Act would prohibit restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance that would be unconstitutional if applied to organizations in our own country.
Background on the Global Gag Rule
The global gag rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy) prevents any organization receiving U.S. international family planning funds from providing counseling or referrals for abortion or advocating for access to abortion services in their country — even with their own money. Separate and permanent U.S. foreign assistance laws already restrict funding for abortions overseas. The global gag rule goes a step further.
In practice, this means that means a doctor would be barred not only from providing abortion services, but from referring women to alternate providers or even counseling women on their full range of reproductive health options. Politicians should never come between women and their doctors.
The Global Democracy Promotion Act
If passed, the Global Democracy Promotion Act would mean a permanent repeal of the global gag rule. The U.S. needs to show strong leadership when it comes to promoting democracy and women’s health around the world. Our foreign aid should support the growth of freedom of speech and echo our national ideals, not impose restrictions on women’s access to health care.
President Ronald Reagan first introduced the global gag rule in 1984. Since then, it has been in place during every Republican administration and repealed under every Democratic administration. This back and forth has left potential development partners on the ground skeptical of U.S. commitment to international family planning. Though not currently in effect, the lasting shadow of the global gag rule continues to prevent key organizations from accepting U.S. foreign aid.
It’s time to bury the global gag rule once and for all. Support the Global Democracy Promotion Act!