Despite the a global International Safe Motherhood Initiative launched in 1987, maternal death is the second leading cause of death worldwide, according to a report issued by the Panos Institute, an international development charity based in London. Each year, there are 525,000 recorded maternal deaths, and 15 million women who experience complications during pregnancy that lead to severe illness or disability. Judy Mirsky, the author of the study, cites early, or forced, pregnancy when the body is not fully developed and lack of resources as two major factors contributing to the problem in developing countries. Another root cause of the problem, according to Mirsky, is the lack of safe, legal abortion and the United States’ re-implementation of the global gag rule, which has made reproductive health facilities in the developing world even less accessible.
The global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City policy, bars U.S. aid to family planning programs in developing nations that use their own, separate funds to counsel or advocate abortions. The global gag rule prevents family planning clinics from offering any information on abortion or the consequences of illegal abortion, and in many cases discourages clinics from treating women and girls who are suffering from abortion-related complications. This rule was re-instated by President Bush in one of his first executive orders as President.