Obama Overturns “Gag Rule”

26Jan09

On his first day in office in January 2001, President Bush reinstated the Global Gag Rule, which prohibited aid from going toward any organization that mentioned abortion as an option in family planning.

New Statesman reports:

President George W. Bush issued an executive order that had lain dormant throughout most of the Clinton administration. The Mexico City Policy, more commonly and descriptively dubbed “the global gag rule”, had been instituted by Ronald Reagan in 1984, and represented a tightening of the Helms Amendment 1973, which had made it unlawful for non-governmental organisations to use any funds granted by the US Agency for International Development (Usaid) either to provide safe abortion (in countries where it is legal) or to lobby for it (in countries where it is not).
The global gag rule allowed the US to use its huge financial clout (it currently provides 40 per cent of the global aid budget for population programmes) to take its anti-abortion stance much further. From the moment it was signed, NGOs receiving any help at all from Usaid – accepting supplies of condoms, for example – were explicitly prohibited from using any of their other funding to provide safe abortion or lobby for it.

As many as sixteen countries lost access to birth control.

Within his first 100 hours in office, Obama overturned the Gag Rule (on Jan. 23), in addition to many other steps in separating his administration from Bush’s legacy.

We’d like to think of it as one step forward for international women’s rights!

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