Letter to Members of the House

Urging Repeal of the Global Gag Rule and Full Funding of UNFPA

Dear Member of Congress:

I am writing on behalf of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a nonprofit legal and policy advocacy organization dedicated to promoting women’s equality worldwide by ensuring reproductive rights as human rights. As you know, the House Appropriations Committee passed the FY 2003 Foreign Operations appropriations act last week. As the bill gets to the House floor, we urge you to support increased international family planning funding for both the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). We also strongly oppose the "global gag rule," and support measures to overturn this damaging restriction.

International family planning and reproductive health programs funded by the United States provide health care choices that improve women’s health and lives. These programs assist women in realizing their internationally-recognized human right to health, particularly reproductive health, and their right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children. Unfortunately, the United States has reneged on its commitment to support UNFPA. Its funding levels for USAID are also insufficient to meet the increasing need for reproductive health services around the world. The Center encourages you to renew the U.S. commitment to funding UNFPA and to increase funding for USAID family planning programs.

The Center for Reproductive Rights also opposes the global gag rule, which restricts foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that accept U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) international family planning funds from using their own, non-U.S. money to provide legal abortion services, to advocate for abortion law reform, or even to provide full and accurate medical information to patients. The global gag rule undermines the right of foreign NGOs to freedom of speech and freedom to participate in their countries’ democratic processes – both cherished American values. It erects barriers to the development of the democratic process in other countries, the promotion of civil society abroad, the enhancement of women’s participation in the political and economic mainstream, and the credibility of the United States in international settings. It undermines U.S. commitments to women’s reproductive health and rights, and has cut family planning programs where they are most needed. Finally, this restriction would be unconstitutional if applied to U.S.-based NGOs, and therefore creates a hypocritical double standard. The global gag rule is a clear violation of international human rights.

The Center urges you to support UNFPA and USAID international family planning programs, and to oppose the global gag rule.