It is unconscionable to place worldwide access to comprehensive reproductive health services and accurate information about women's health care, including abortion care, in jeopardy every four to eight years. That is what the Global Gag Rule does. In one of his first acts in office President Obama issued an executive order to repeal the Global Gag Rule. President Clinton did the same thing -- only to have a succeeding president reverse it. That is why it is imperative that Congress pass the Global Democracy Promotion Act that would permanently prevent all future administrations from reinstating the Global Gag Rule.
The Global Gag Rule is a repressive U.S. policy that denies women and girls the fundamental right to exercise control over their reproductive lives. The rule restricts foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that receive U.S. family planning dollars from utilizing their own non-U.S. funds to perform legal abortion services, advocate for abortion law reform in their own countries, or to dispense accurate medical counseling on abortion or abortion referrals. In countries where women are still second-class citizens and live at an elevated risk of violence, economic insecurity, and rape, the Global Gag Rule is especially harmful and inhumane.
The Global Gag Rule was first imposed by the Reagan administration, then lifted when Bill Clinton came into office, then reinstated by George W. Bush, and now lifted once again by President Obama. Women who needed access to abortion and whose lives were unnecessarily put at risk because of the Global Gag Rule were the primary victims of this ideological tag of war. For their sake, we have to make sure that this time the Global Gag Rule doesn't make a comeback.
The Global Gag Rule derives its name from the fact that it restricts freedom of speech on abortion-related issues and thus severely undermines women's health care by preventing access to abortion and even reducing access to contraceptives. A study by the Guttmacher Institute in 2009 found that almost 20 million unsafe abortions occur each year in 197 countries surveyed. Ensuring the permanent abolition of the Global Gag Rule would mean reduction of the 52 million unintended pregnancies and prevention of 75,000 deaths that result each year from unsafe abortions. Additionally, assuring access to contraceptives is vital to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted infections.
The Global Democracy Promotion Act (H.R. 4879/S. 311) was re-introduced in mid-March by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to bar future administrations from unilaterally imposing the Global Gag Rule. Currently, advocates of the Global Democracy Promotion Act are looking for additional co-sponsors in the hope that critical mass can be reached for its inclusion in the FY 2011 State Foreign Operations appropriations bill. Earlier this month, nearly 300 organizations -- including NOW -- signed a letter to House and Senate leaders in support of the legislation.
We must pass this bill to make sure that tens of thousands of women do not die because of a cruel and inhumane policy imposed by the U.S. government. Please contact your representatives and ask them to co-sponsor the Global Democracy Promotion Act, so that women and girls can have secure access to reproductive health care. Your voice can make a difference in lives of many women.
TAKE ACTION NOW! Ask your members of Congress to co-sponsor the Global Democracy Promotion Act.