President George W. Bush declared war on women’s reproductive rights globally on his first business day in office with his reinstitution of the “Mexico City Policy.” Also known as the “Global Gag Rule,” the policy denies U.S. funding to programs in developing nations that provide counseling, information, or referrals about abortion, even if the funds for those programs are their own or are provided by other countries.
President Ronald Reagan first enacted the “Mexico City Policy” in 1984. A decade earlier the 1973 Helms Amendment barred the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from supporting or encouraging abortion with any funding that the agency awards. Bush reenacted the Global Gag Rule on the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in a deceptive statement claiming that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for or advocate abortions, funding which is already prohibited by the 1973 Helms Amendment.
President Clinton reversed the Mexico City policy shortly after taking office in 1993, allowing international family planning programs to provide counseling on a full range of reproductive options. The Helms Amendment has remained in place.
In a strong bi-partisan response to President Bush’s restoration of the global gag rule, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Representative Nancy Johnson (R-CT) denounced Bush’s action and introduced new legislation that would prevent the U.S. from imposing restrictions on the ability of family planning programs to provide reproductive health services.
According to the United Nations, of the estimated 50 million abortions performed each year, 20 million are unsafe and pose serious health risks that may cause death. More than 78,000 women die each year as a result of unsafe abortions. President Bush’s reinstatement of the “Mexico City Policy” endangers the health, futures and lives of millions of women and girls around the world who rely on reproductive health treatment that includes abortion counseling.