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End the Global Gag Rule!

November 9, 2011 – Challenging the dramatic measures proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives over the summer, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment in September that would block the Global Gag Rule proposed by the House in the fiscal year 2012 foreign aid bill and permanently prohibit its imposition under future leadership.

In July, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted (25-17) to reinstate the Global Gag Rule (GGR) in the FY2012 foreign aid bill. The committee defeated an amendment by Ranking Member Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) to remove the measure from the bill.

The controversial policy prohibits international family planning organizations receiving U.S. aid from providing information, counseling, or referrals related to abortion—even if using their own non-U.S. funding and even if the practices are legal in their own countries. During the July 20-21 markup, the committee defeated an amendment by Ranking Member Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) to remove the Global Gag Rule from the bill.

If reinstated as a matter of law, the GGR would have terrible consequences for women and their families. While it was in effect between 2001 and 2009, the policy forced clinics to cut back on a range of critical health services that have nothing to do with abortion, such as family planning, obstetric care, HIV testing, and malaria treatment.

A new Stanford University study also suggests that the policy may be linked to a dramatic rise in induced abortions in Africa, including in Ghana, Guinea, and Mozambique. These countries, which experienced the greatest cuts in U.S. support for health organizations under the policy, saw the number of induced abortions double between 2001 and 2008, along with a decline in contraceptive use. Reduced access to contraceptives resulting from funding cuts may have led women to substitute abortion for contraception, according to the study, which is the first quantitative effort to examine the policy’s impacts.

The GGR was first adopted in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan but has since been removed and reinstated several times. President Obama rescinded the policy when he took office in January 2009.

 

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