The global gag rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy) has played politics with women’s health and lives for over 30 years. While the Helms Amendment and other laws already restrict U.S. foreign assistance funding for abortions overseas, when in place, the global gag rule goes a step further to prevent any foreign organization receiving U.S. international family planning funds from even providing information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocating for access to abortion services in their country — even with their own money. When in place, the gag rule interferes with the doctor-patient relationship, limits free speech, and impedes women’s access to health services — including safe, legal abortion.
Since this destructive policy was put in place in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan by executive order, it has been lifted by every Democratic president and reinstated by every Republican president. President Barack Obama repealed the global gag rule in his first week in office, so the policy is not currently in place. But last week, provisions were included in the House FY16 State, Foreign-Operations funding bill that would reinstate the gag rule if passed. It is important for your readers to understand this policy, and for journalists to highlight the actions of U.S. lawmakers in other countries around the world. The funding bill is scheduled for a full-committee markup on Thursday.
The harm caused by this policy is serious and significant. 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. The policy is also anti-democratic, preventing citizens from freely participating in their own country’s democratic process as a condition of U.S. funding.
To end this dangerous policy once and for all, we must encourage Congress to support the Global Democracy Promotion Act, which has been introduced in the 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.
In this white board video, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards explains, “The U.S. is the biggest donor in the world when it comes to supporting women’s health in developing countries. But, for 30 years...the global gag rule has cast a shadow on that support.”
U.S. lawmakers' most recent attempts to reinstate the policy coincide with unprecedented progress on family planning access globally. For example, Family Planning 2020, a global partnership that supports the rights of women and girls to decide, freely, and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children they want to have, has reported 77 million unintended pregnancies averted and 125,000 women’s and girl's lives saved in 2013 alone. Reinstating the global gag rule, not to mention cutting funding for international family planning, would undercut such progress by disqualifying many of the most experienced family planning providers who are making progress in their countries from funding.
A broad coalition of leading domestic and global lawmakers and organizations support a permanent end to the global gag rule. The need for this change has been the subject of numerous opinion articles. We invite you to comment on this important effort.
For more information, visit: http://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/get-involved/global-reproductive-health-policy/end-global-gag-rule/
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