In a 53-41 vote yesterday, the Senate passed an amendment to the $34 billion fiscal year 2008 foreign aid bill that would overturn the Global Gag Rule. Also called the Mexico City policy, the Global Gag Rule prohibits the US from funding overseas organizations that support abortion in any way — including direct services, counseling, or lobbying activities — even if the groups use their own monies for such activity. The amendment, introduced by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), would lift the policy, which was originally adopted by President Ronald Reagan, removed by President Bill Clinton, and reinstated by President George W. Bush on his first day in office.
The foreign aid bill itself passed 82-12. The House passed the foreign aid appropriations bill (HR 2764) in June with provisions exempting contraceptives from the global gag rule and repealing the abstinence-only funding restrictions for HIV prevention programs. According to Population Action International, this marks the first time since the Global Gag Rule has been in effect, from 1984-1993 and again since 2001, that both the House and the Senate have passed legislation to repeal or modify its restrictions.
The House and Senate versions of the bill will now move forward to a conference committee to be reconciled and sent to the White House. President Bush, however, has promised to veto any attempt to undermine the current policy, according to the Associated Press.