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New Legislation Would Finally End the Global Gag Rule

Analysis Haley Nicholson, Legislative Analyst

Yesterday, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) reintroduced the Global Democracy Promotion Act (GDPA) to codify into law a permanent repeal of the Global Gag Rule. Even though the Gag Rule is currently rescinded under President Obama, it could easily be reinstated by the next president. The Gag Rule, which renders foreign organizations ineligible for U.S. family planning assistance if the organization provides abortion services with their own non-U.S. funds, was first introduced by President Ronald Reagan, repealed by President Clinton, reinstated by President Bush, and repealed by President Obama. This “political football” of a policy is extremely harmful, so we must work to ensure this it is permanently removed. Women around the world and their health care providers shouldn’t have to fear their future funding will be beholden to the political whims of the U.S. electoral process.

When in effect, the Gag Rule has placed an imposition on women abroad by forcing clinics to close, contraceptives to go undelivered, and health care providers to go silent. To get a better idea of the history of the Global Gag Rule and the work PAI has done, check out: our Global Gag Rule timeline, and our GGR policy brief.

Women have a right to access a full range of reproductive health services. Making sure women can access these services, including legal abortion, is not only good for her future health, but her children’s future health improves as well. Globally, unsafe abortion leads to 22,000 deaths among women each year, and fully meeting the needs for post-abortion care would reduce deaths from unsafe abortion to 9,000. Research also shows when women have a complete range of affordable reproductive care:

Maternal deaths would drop by 56 percent from the current number of 130,000; and newborn deaths would drop by 72 percent to 800,000.

The GDPA would not only ensure local organizations in countries receiving U.S. funding are able to use their own funding for legal abortion services and education, but the GDPA would also ensure organizations can work to help reduce maternal and newborn deaths as well as instances of unsafe abortion.

This August will mark 31 years since the inception of the Global Gag Rule, and republicans in the House of Representatives have once again included reinstatement of Gag Rule in the annual State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. Congresswoman Lowey’s re-introduction of the GDPA provides a counter to this harmful policy rider and underscores why it is time to finally and permanently repeal the Gag Rule.

We’ll have a list of current sponsors of the GDPA soon. You can also see if your Senator has become a co-sponsor of Senator Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) companion GDPA legislation in the Senate by clicking here. If they are not yet a co-sponsor, call or email them today and ask them to support this vital legislation. The lives of women and girls around the world are worth the fight.


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