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WASHINGTON, DC — Planned Parenthood Action Fund applauds the bipartisan majority on the Senate Appropriations Committee, who today, after calls from domestic and international health and human rights organizations, rejected attempts to hinder global progress on women’s health, including an attempt to reinstate the harmful “global gag rule.”

Similar restrictions were included in the version of the bill that passed in House Committee last month, sparking outcry from 79 leading health and human rights organizations, who signed an open statement to Congress: “The U.S. should be a leader when it comes to promoting democracy, women’s health, and human rights around the world. U.S. foreign aid should never be used as a tool to limit women’s access to health care or to censor free speech.”

  • You can read the statement opposing reinstatement of the global gag rule and endorsed by 79 leading health and human rights organizations here.
  • You can watch a white board video with Cecile Richards explaining the history and impact of the global gag rule here.

In addition to rejecting politically motivated attempts to reinstate the harmful “global gag rule,” the bipartisan Senate committee also rejected proposals to cut international family planning investments by 25 percent ($149 million) and ban any U.S. contribution to UNFPA, the leading UN agency providing basic reproductive and maternal health services in nations around the world.

Statement from Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:

“We thank Senators Shaheen, Leahy and their bipartisan allies on the Appropriations Committee for putting women’s health over politics and rejecting anti-women’s health provisions in the funding bill.

“The United States should redouble efforts to empower women and girls throughout the world, not stand in the way. That means investing more, not less, in women's health, making women and girls a top priority in foreign assistance, eliminating gender-based violence, and incorporating gender equity across the board in policymaking and international development.”

The amendment passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 17-13 and was co-sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Tom Udall (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Jon Tester (D-MT).The amendment permanently repeals the global gag rule and restores funding for international family planning programs and UNFPA.

The U.S. is the biggest bilateral donor in the world when it comes to supporting family planning programs in developing countries. Funding for international family planning prevented 6 million unintended pregnancies last year.

Background on the Global Gag Rule: The global gag rule has played politics with women’s health and lives for over 30 years — and Congress should end it once and for all, not reinstate this failed policy.

  • The global gag rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy) was originally put in place by President Reagan in 1984. It withheld U.S. family planning funding from any foreign organizations that offered abortion information, referrals, or services with their own, non-U.S. funds. Foreign organizations also had to give up their right to advocate for abortion-related policy change in their own country as a condition of receiving U.S. family planning assistance.
  • When in place, the global gag rule interferes with the doctor-patient relationship by restricting accurate information that health care providers may offer, restricts freedom of speech for local citizens, and impedes women's access to family planning by cutting off funding for many of the most experienced health care providers.
  • The harm caused by the global gag rule is serious and significant. For example, when the policy was last in effect, a community health organization in Ghana saw a 50 percent rise in women seeking treatment for complications from unsafe abortions, since the law cut off that leading organization's access to family planning funding.
  • Since this destructive policy was put in place over 30 years ago, it has been lifted by every Democratic president and reinstated by every Republican president. Most recently, President Obama rescinded the global gag rule in January 2009 and it is not currently in place, despite numerous attempts by congressional opponents of reproductive health to reinstate it.
  • The Global Democracy Promotion Act has been introduced in the House and Senate with bipartisan support and would block a future anti-women's health president from reinstating the harmful global gag rule, which prohibits foreign organizations receiving 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.
  • You can read an editorial from the New York Times here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/20/opinion/a-potential-world-of-harm-for-women.html?_r=0