In a major step forward, U.S. House and Senate leaders, by a vote of 307-101 and 65-27, agreed to remove the anti-choice restriction known as the “global gag rule” from the $14.9 billion foreign aid bill. U.S. House and Senate leaders agreed to a plan that would increase funding for international family planning programs to $425 million in year 2001(FY 2001), an increase of $40 million appropriated for the current year (FY 2000). The “global gag rule” restricted most overseas programs that receive U.S. family planning funds from using any funds from any source, including their own money, to discuss abortion as an option or work for greater access to abortion. Even in countries where abortion is legal, organizations accepting U.S. funds were prevented from providing abortion services or promoting abortion rights with their own funds.
Removal of the “global gag rule” will ensure better reproductive health for those living in poverty worldwide, of which 60% are women and girls, and would benefit the large numbers of women forced to seek unsafe abortions. At least 25% of all unsafe abortions occur among girls between the ages of 15 and 19. United Nations (UN) estimates show that at least 78,000 women across the globe die annually from unsafe abortions. Many feminists argue that the UN estimates are low and do not account for thousands more due to the lack of accurate in-country reporting systems. The removal of U.S. restrictions on international family planning will take effect on February 15, 2001, therefore contingent on the upcoming presidential elections. The elected president will have the ability to reinstate restrictions on international family planning by executive order.