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Why We Need a Permanent Repeal of the Global Gag Rule

Analysis Haley Nicholson, Legislative Analyst

Today, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a long-standing champion of international family planning and reproductive health, re-introduced the Global Democracy Promotion Act. Sen. Boxer has introduced this critical legislation addressing one of the worst U.S. policies impacting women overseas—the Global Gag Rule—at the start of each new Congress since 2001. Seventeen other Senators joined Sen. Boxer in co-sponsoring today’s bill.

Official Portrait
Senator Barbara Boxer has introduced legislation to repeal the Global Gag Rule in every new Congress since 2001.

The Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, is an executive branch policy that prohibits foreign organizations from receiving any U.S. family planning funding if they provide abortion services in countries where abortion is legal. It also prohibits these organizations from using their own funds to provide abortion education, counseling, referrals, or services or to advocate for abortion law reform. The Gag Rule was first imposed by the Reagan administration in 1984 and has since been rescinded by Democratic presidents and reinstated by Republican presidents. President Obama rescinded it shortly after taking office in 2009.

So why do we need the Global Democracy Promotion Act?

The Global Democracy Promotion Act would repeal the Global Gag Rule permanently and ensure that women around the world would not fall prey to partisan politics by preventing a future president who is hostile to women’s reproductive rights from imposing the policy unilaterally. Simply put, the Gag Rule has long been a partisan tactic of Republican administrations, and year after year, congressional Republican opponents seek to reinstate it via harmful policy riders to appropriations bills that fund international family planning and reproductive health programs. To learn more about the history of the Gag Rule, click here for a PAI timeline of Gag Rule events and here for our short documentary about the policy and its effects worldwide.

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