ColorLines: House GOP Revives Global War on Women’s Health With “Gag Rule”

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By Michelle Chen
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"While Congress was playing fiscal roulette last month, House Republicans quietly advanced their attack on reproductive choice, too. Conservative legislators are working to reinstate the so-called Global Gag Rule, which would block international aid to organizations that provide abortion-related information and services in other countries.

The proposed policy, part of a larger bill funding the State Department, is based on a Bush administration executive order that President Obama repealed. Under the previous gag rule, overseas organizations receiving U.S. family-planning funds were not allowed to provide abortion-related care or counseling, to help women avoid unsafe abortions, or to advocate on abortion issues. In addition to damaging women’s health, the policy undermined political dialogue on providing comprehensive family planning in aid-dependent countries. The bill passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee last month.

But the new gag rule would go beyond previous executive orders (Bush’s policy was a reinstatement of Ronald Reagan’s \'Mexico City Policy,\' which Bill Clinton rescinded) by codifying an expanded version of the restrictions in federal law.

On top of the gag-rule revival, House Republicans are also attacking family-planning funding overall, by trying to kill U.S. support for the United Nations Population Fund.

If reinstated, the gag rule would affect groups serving in a huge swath of the Global South, because the majority of countries that receive USAID funds allow some form of legal abortion, according to a 2009 report by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

In many ways the gag rule reflects endemic problems in the foreign aid funding model, which hinges more on the election cycle than real human needs. Women’s health advocates have long called for a comprehensive, community-oriented approach to aid that integrates reproductive and sexual health together with family planning—and above all, upholds human rights, not just political agendas.

But in a political arena dominated by deception and stonewalling, promoting integrity in international aid inevitably ranks low on the agenda. In the right’s ongoing quest to gag the movement for reproductive health, the aid that was intended to improve women’s lives has instead been used to smother them."

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