February 01, 2009
Global Gag Rule Has Deadly Results

Global Gag Rule Has Deadly Results

On January 22, 2001, on his first business day in office (and the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing a woman's right to an abortion), President George W. Bush re-imposed the Mexico City Policy, also known as the “Global Gag Rule” on the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) population program.

The Helms amendment to foreign assistance legislation, in effect since 1973, prevents U.S. funds from being used for abortion-related activities. Since 2001, the Global Gag Rule has gone further by making non-governmental organizations (NGOs) ineligible for U.S. funds even if these activities are carried out with non-U.S. funds. This policy restricts foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive USAID family planning funds from using their own, non-U.S. funds to provide legal abortion services, lobby their own governments for abortion law reform, or even provide accurate medical counseling or referrals regarding abortion.

Called the "gag" rule because it stifles free speech and public debate on abortion-related issues, the policy forces a cruel choice on foreign NGOs. They can accept U.S. assistance to provide essential health services – but with restrictions that may jeopardize the health of many patients. Or they can reject the policy and lose vital U.S. funds, contraceptive supplies and technical assistance.

Subsequently, President Bush tried to extend the gag rule's reach by attaching it to the Global HIV/AIDS Act, but public outcry forced the Administration to back down, citing a desire to keep global HIV/AIDS funds separate from "abortion politics." The President then issued an executive order in August 2003 that expanded the gag rule to include organizations receiving money through the U.S. Department of State. These funds go to groups serving some of the most vulnerable women in the world: refugees and migrants displaced by war and civil unrest, who are often the victims of rape and sexual violence.

The gag rule has penalized hundreds of NGOs – and the women they serve – in nearly sixty countries around the world. According to the World Health Organization, almost 20 million unsafe abortions occur annually, almost all in developing countries. Nearly 70,000 women die each year due to abortion complications, with millions more suffering injuries and disabilities. Untold millions more suffer serious injuries and permanent disabilities.

The global gag rule adversely impacts HIV/AIDS prevention efforts through its erosion of family planning programs. The same family planning providers who lose funding due to the gag rule are on the front line in the fight against HIV/AIDS. These providers have integrated their traditional family planning services with HIV/AIDS prevention services, recognizing both as essential components of reproductive health care.
Note: The global gag rule does not technically apply to HIV/AIDS funds from USAID, yet it is hampering HIV/AIDS services. The services are affected because the family planning clinics are affected.

The Mexico City policy, also known as the global gag rule, has led to closed clinics, cuts in healthcare staff and dwindling medical supplies, leaving women, children and families without access to vital healthcare services, according to the Access Denied report released in September 2003 by policy opponents.

This article was written 8/11/05. Gailya Paliga led a workshop on the Global Gag Rule at NC NOW’s State Conference on Sept 24, 2005. The workshop included case studies of the following countries: Romania (Europe), Kenya (Africa), Ethiopia (Africa)

Posted by Admin at February 01, 2009 11:35 PM