Global Politics

Senate Blocks Global Gag Rule

A bipartisan majority in the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment that repeals the anti-abortion “Global Gag Rule” and restores $600 million in funding for international family planning and reproductive health services. Republican Senator Mark Kirk (IL) and GOP Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined Senate Democrats in passing the amendment.

GOP Senators Murkowski and Collins join Senate Dems to Block Global Gag Rule. Image via  Getty Images for Politico
GOP Senators Murkowski and Collins join Senate Dems to Block Global Gag Rule. Image via Getty Images

The amendment, proposed by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), was added to the 2016 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill and passed by a vote of 17-13.

The Global Gag Rule bans US funding for family planning programs in developing countries that advocate for or provide information to women on a full range of options, including abortion, even if organizations use their own funds to do so. President Reagan first implemented the Global Gag rule through an executive order. It was later rescinded by President Clinton and then reinstated by President Bush. President Obama has since rescinded it, but the changing nature of the rule makes organizations afraid to accept U.S. assistance. Under the Global Gag Rule, abortion rates increased and many clinics were forced to close or reduce their services.

“We thank Senators Shaheen, Leahy and their bipartisan allies on the Appropriations Committee for putting women’s health over politics and rejecting anti-women’s health provisions in the funding bill,” said Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “The United States should redouble efforts to empower women and girls throughout the world, not stand in the way. That means investing more, not less, in women’s health, making women and girls a top priority in foreign assistance, eliminating gender-based violence, and incorporating gender equity across the board in policymaking and international development.”

The United States is the biggest donor to family planning programs in developing countries. The US’s current family planning program helps 28 million women receive contraceptive services, which helps avert 6 million unintended pregnancies and more than 12,000 maternal deaths annually.

“An estimated 225 million women in developing countries are unable to access family planning services,” said Senator Shaheen. “Providing greater access to family planning and reproductive health services improves the health of mothers and children, empowers women to make their own choices about how to grow their families, and is a smart investment that helps reduce poverty.”

While the Senate version of the appropriations bill no longer has restrictions on family planning services, the House version, which was passed in the House Committee last month, contains proposals to cut international family planning assistance by $149 million (25 percent) and reinstate the Global Gag Rule. As a result of this bill, 79 organizations, including the Feminist Majority, have since signed an open statement to Congress, calling for a repeal of the Global Gag Rule.

Media Resources: The Hill 7/9/15; Politico 7/9/15; Planned Parenthood Action 6/15, 7/9/15; Feminist Newswire 10/3/11; The New York Times 10/19/12; Guttmacher Institute 7/8/15; Senator Shaheen Press Release 7/9/15

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