This week marks the 20th anniversary of a harmful US foreign policy that bars family planning programs in countries that receive US federal aid from using separate, private monies for abortion counseling, services, and referrals. Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority asserts that this policy is “desperately injuring the poorest women in developing nations.” The Reagan Administration first imposed the Global Gag Rule, otherwise known as the Mexico City Policy, in 1984. Though President Clinton rescinded the policy for the eight years of his presidency, President Bush issued an executive order to reinstate the Global Gag rule during his first official day in office in January 2001.
Under this policy, international family planning programs are forced either to lose a large percentage of their operating funds, or to discontinue services formerly paid for by private dollars, including gynecological exams, AIDS prevention and treatment, and contraception. US funding represents a significant portion of the budgets of many international nongovernmental organizations that provide essential health care to women in the developing nations. In many rural areas, these organizations are the only source of gynecological health care available.
The Feminist Majority and several leading women’s rights and health advocates are urging President Bush to repeal the global gag rule.