“President Obama took the side of justice today,” said NOW President Kim Gandy. “For eight years the Global Gag Rule has forced international family planning organizations to make an impossible choice between providing comprehensive reproductive health care, and receiving funds that enable them to help women in need. Women around the world have died as a result of this heartless policy.”
President Ronald Reagan first instituted the rule, officially known as the Mexico City Policy, in 1984. The policy requires that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in other countries agree to strict limitations–including limits on how they can spend their own locally raised funds–before they can receive desperately needed U.S. family planning funds. These restrictive terms, which even limit the organizations’ free speech rights, inspired the policy’s more commonly-known name, the Global Gag Rule. Under the rule, NGOs are barred from performing or referring for abortion, even with their own home country’s funds, and are prohibited from even discussing abortion with patients or with policymakers. President Bill Clinton reversed the policy at the beginning of his first term, a victory that lasted eight years until President George W. Bush reinstated the order in 2001.
“Women around the world deserve access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care services,” said Gandy. “The Global Gag Rule has prevented that access for countless women over the past eight years. It is long past time for the government to untie the hands of NGOs, so they can fully serve women clients and receive the support they need.”
“This is a strong start for President Obama, assuring the women of the U.S. and the women of the world that their health care needs will not be ignored or used as a political football by this administration. We look forward to additional progress from our new president, including full restoration of U.S. aid to the United Nations Population Fund, as well as revocation of the Department of Health and Human Services’ midnight ‘conscience’ rule that further limits women’s health care access,” said Gandy.