Coalition Letter to Bush on Reimposition of the Global Gag Rule

A Letter on Behalf of Twenty Advocacy Organizations Submitted to President Bush

Dear Mr. President:

We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to set the record straight. Yesterday you resurrected the 1984 global "gag" rule on international family-planning programs. In taking this executive action, you said, "It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortion, either here or abroad." Your spokesperson, Ari Fleischer, said your goal was to make abortion more rare.

Your rhetoric and policy, however, belie the facts:

  • Under current U.S. law not one taxpayer dollar is spent to perform or "promote" abortions overseas. The Helms amendment to the Foreign Operations appropriations bill, renewed annually since 1973, explicitly forbids such activities. By continuing to talk about "taxpayer funding," your Administration seems to be engaging in a deliberate attempt to mislead the American people about the nature of international family-planning funding.
  • Second, you have stated that the reimposition of the global "gag" rule will make abortion more rare. To the contrary, the record shows that the last time this policy was in effect, there was no reduction in the number of abortions, only reduced access to quality health-care services, more unintended pregnancies, and more abortions - the exact opposite of your stated goal.
  • Your Administration has claimed bipartisan, broad support for your policy from both the American public and Congress. Evidence indicates otherwise. In poll after poll, the American people - across party and ideological lines - overwhelmingly endorse international family-planning services. Furthermore, the real bipartisan congressional consensus exists around making family-planning services more widely available and more accessible, not undermining them.

In fact, the global "gag" rule forces overseas community-based organizations to make an impossible decision - forego desperately needed U.S. family-planning assistance or sacrifice their rights and responsibilities. Under the "gag" rule, recipients of U.S. family-planning funds must give up the ability to provide legal health services, ethically required information about their patients' health options, and their right to take part in important policy debates in their own countries - in short, the very integrity of their programs. Either choice hurts the poorest women in the world.

As you know, we strongly disagree with your reimposition of the global "gag" rule. However, we respectfully request that you and your staff accurately and honestly depict current law and the nature of family-planning programs to the media, the American public, and women abroad.


Advocates for Youth
American Association of University Women
American Civil Liberties Union
Catholics for a Free Choice
Center for Reproductive Rights
Global Health Council
International Center for Research on Women
National Abortion Federation
National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League
National Council of Jewish Women
National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Women's Law Center
Pathfinder International
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Population Action International
The Alan Guttmacher Institute
The Population Institute
Women's EDGE
Zero Population Growth