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Thinking Globally

July 27, 2011

If you have been at (or near) a Planned Parenthood rally you have seen the sign: Reproductive Rights are Human Rights.

“It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will,”

said Hilary Clinton in the  famous women’s rights are human rights speech she delivered in Beijing in 1995.  In this same speech she also cited rape, domestic violence, bride burning, and genital mutilation as human rights violations.  

For the better part of nearly 3 decades, the Global Gag Rule (a.k.a. the Mexico City Policy), has undermined the reproductive rights — the human rights– of women around the world.   This dangerous policy, which restricts access to reproductive health care by denying overseas agencies receiving U.S. family planning assistance the right to use their own non-U.S. funds to provide information, referrals or services for legal abortion or advocate for the legalization of abortion in their country, has been a political football since President Reagan instituted it in 1984.  Since then the Global Gag Rule has been in effect during Republican administrations (Reagan, Bush, and Bush) and is quickly rescinded after the inauguration of Democratic Presidents (Clinton and Obama). 

Sadly, this policy could once again put the health and lives of women around the world at unacceptable risk.  Last week the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee voted to reinstate the global gag rule  in the Fiscal Year 2012 State Department Authorizations Act.  

The anti-choice leadership in the House is taking its war on women global. Just as we have fought to protect women’s access to contraception here at home, we must now fight for women abroad.

Each year, there are 53 million unintended pregnancies that could be prevented with adequate family planning. More than 350,000 women in developing countries die in pregnancy or childbirth every year —and the vast majority of these deaths are preventable.  About 46,000 women die each year from complications related to unsafe abortion.  

The Global Gag Rule, by prohibiting organizations from providing basic family planning services including contraception,  leads to more unintended pregnancies and more unsafe abortions.  Under the rule, providers lose more than just money.  The United States is the most important donor of contraceptives to the developing world, providing more than one-third of all donated supplies. Providers that don’t agree to the restrictions also lose these donated contraceptives (including condoms). 

The Global Gag Rule doesn’t affect funding for abortions.  The Helms Amendment (1973) already prohibits any U.S. tax dollars from funding abortions overseas.   It doesn’t save money either, because the funds are reprogrammed to other, potentially less effective organizations.

It is time to stop playing politics with women’s lives  and get rid of the Global Gag Rule for good.  This week Congresswoman Nita Lowey introduced The Global Democracy Promotion Act to do just that. This bill will permanently repeal the global gag rule and prevent future presidents from reinstating it.  You can help women around the world by taking action with us.  Ask your member of Congress to support the Global Democracy Promotion Act.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 28, 2011 11:39 am

    Great reminder – keep ever vigilant.

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