After George W. Bush was inaugurated, he didn?t waste any time in putting his more controversial policies into action. Just in time for the Jan. 22 anniversary of the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, he signed an executive order to reinstate the little-known ?global gag rule.? This controversial law, that is about abortion, affects health care clinics in third-world countries.

Bush and the news media have consistently misrepresented the law to the public.

?It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortion, either here or abroad,? he stated.

What makes this statement ludicrous is that no United States funds have been used to fund abortions since 1973, when a law was passed prohibiting it. The global gag rule simply takes away the rights of women and health-care providers to educate and be educated.

Family planning is one of the ways that we can combat the effects of population growth in a world already occupied by six billion people, while at the same time helping women and their families.

The United States does give aid of this sort to developing countries, many of which are experiencing a ?youthquake.? There has been a sudden, huge increase in the number of women approaching child-bearing age and who are in desperate need for this education.

The global gag rule changes all that. It will deny funding to any clinic which provides abortions, offers abortion counseling services, discusses abortion at all or even discusses the law of that country regarding abortion.

Freedom of speech

This rule applies, of course, even if abortion is fully legal in the country in question. The staff of the clinic is, in essence, ?gagged.? Is this democracy?

This is a law that could never be imposed on the U.S. In our great country we have freedom of speech. However, once outside our borders we seem to lose repsect for freedom of sppech.

Or even inside ? last March when I attended Zero Population Growth?s Capital Hill Days there was a speaker from one of the clinics that received aid from the United States. When an audience member asked her opinion on the global gag rule, she was forbidden to answer.

This is absolutely shocking to me ? that a person in our country with all its pretensions to ?liberty and justice for all? would be gagged by the law.

In case you?re wondering why the gag rule was in effect during the Clinton administration, it was a complicated business involving several Republicans who essentially blackmailed Clinton into signing a package that included the gag rule. The bill appropriating funds for the United Nations was contested by Republicans who refused to pass it unless the gag rule rider was added. This rider was then repealed by the Democrats in September.

Family planning

Just as the funds were about to be re-distributed to the needy clinics, our new president has cut them off again. The really sad part about all this is that instead of preventing abortions, the gag rule may actually increase them. By denying funding to the clinics that provide family planning assistance, many more unwanted pregnancies will the result.

Nearly 80 million pregnancies worldwide are unplanned, and more than half of these end in abortion. Consider the

number of women who will die trying to get an abortion from an unsafe provider ? 78,000 worldwide annually according to Planned Parenthood.

Molded statues

No one wants to cause more abortions, therefore this is really not the partisan issue that it seems, as my group at the conference tried to explain to a Republican congressman. Try telling that to a guy who has a molded plastic statue of a fetus on his desk.

Bush campaigned as a moderate, a so-called ?compassionate conservative,? and it?s clearly the only reason he was elected. His actions in the short time here has been our president show that his emphasis is on conservative, not compassionate.

Schroth is a sophomore and President of Women?s Caucus

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