Finally Putting a Gag on the Global Gag Rule?

Jul 18th, 2013 | By | Category: Reproductive Rights/Women's Rights

By Suzanne York,

Do you want to do something that will help women around the world?  One big step you can take is to support the Global Democracy Promotion Act (GDPA) – a piece of congressional legislation that calls for permanently ending the global gag rule.

What is the Global Gag Rule?

The global gag rule (also called the Mexico City policy, where it was first announced in 1984) required that any overseas organization receiving U.S. aid not have anything to do with abortion – including basic information, counseling or referrals. This held true even if the organization used its own funds. This had big implications on other areas of family planning services that had nothing to do with that, which ultimately denied support to women’s reproductive health.

It was first established by President Reagan, then rescinded by President Clinton, back in place under President George W. Bush, and repealed by President Obama.  This back and forth ping-pong policy approach has been very detrimental to organizations and policies on women’s rights and reproductive health.

EngenderHealth, a global women’s health organization, found that due to the global gag rule, between 2001 and 2009, 20 developing countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East lost U.S.-donated contraceptives.  Also, many organizations and clinics were forced to reduce services, lay off staff, or completely shut down.

Permanent Repeal

On July 18th, Representative Nita Lowey introduced legislation to end the global gag rule once and for all.  The GPDA bill has 114 original co-sponsors who recognize that repealing this policy would ensure more consistent U.S. support to family planning clinics around the world.

There are 222 million women in developing countries who want access to modern contraceptives but do not have it.  These are the women who will benefit from a stable U.S. policy on family planning services.

In a press release, Congresswoman Lowey said, “The Global Gag Rule is a failed policy that works against our goal of reducing unwanted pregnancies around the world. By forcing eligible health care providers to choose between receiving critical U.S. aid or fulfilling their obligations to their patients, it creates a false choice that undermines free speech and leads to more abortions, not fewer.”

Ironically, as Lowey’s bill is being introduced, another effort is being made to do the opposite.  In the next day or two, a House subcommittee will consider a draft appropriations bill that would reinstate the global gag rule legislatively.

Focus on Positive Measures

U.S. policy on women’s health should address lack of access to contraception, reproductive health, maternal mortality, prenatal care and child survival rates.  Overall, it should put the needs of women and their families over politics.  Healthy women and stable communities the world over benefit the U.S. too.

If you are an American citizen, do your part and contact your representative and urge he or she to back the GPDA bill and repeal the global gag rule once and for all.  In today’s society we should be doing all we can to improve lives, at home and beyond our borders.

Suzanne York is a senior writer with the Institute for Population Studies.

[photo credits:]

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