The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP) petitioned the Second Circuit Court of Appeals today asking the court to allow its legal challenge of President Bush’s global gag rule to continue. CRLP charges that the global gag rule impinges free speech and amounts of government-sanctioned censorship. The gag rule forbids foreign organizations receiving U.S. funding from providing, counseling, or promoting abortion even if these activities are funded with separate monies. Last month, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska of New York dismissed the case claiming that CRLP did not have proper standing and that censorship surrounding abortion was created by the organizations that agreed to accept U.S. funding. CRLP contends, however, that the policy hinders its ability to “effectively communicate with citizens and activists in other countries, influence governments, or assist in abortion law reform.”
The global gag rule has already had a damaging effect in the developing world. In Kenya, many reproductive health clinics have closed cutting off desperately needed healthcare services for low-income women. Similarly, in Nepal, where six women die every day from botched, illegal abortions, reproductive health organizations have suffered funding cuts in order to lobby their government to liberalize abortion laws in order to save women’s lives. Nepal has the fourth highest maternal mortality rate in the world, and 50 percent of the women who die from pregnancy complications die from botched abortions.