During his campaign, I was thrilled that Obama promised to stand up for women. Now, by repealing the Global Gag Rule, he has fulfilled that promise. On Jan. 23, our 44th president issued an executive order to lift the Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy. The policy expressly withheld federal funding from nongovernment organizations, or NGOs, that provided abortions or even discussed abortions outside the United States.
The act has yo-yoed in and out of existence since Reagan and Republicans first enacted it in 1984. Clinton and the Democratic Party tossed it out in 1993, arguing that it was ‘too broad.” Bush Jr. signed its sorry self back into law when he took office in 2001. Now Obama has banished it hopefully forever. The problem with the Global Gag Rule was that it was extremely general and sweepingly prevented funding to other services provided by these NGOs, which are women’s health care organizations. These other services are indisputably essential and include family planning, counseling, rape crisis services, STI education, sexual health care, pregnancy testing, STI testing, mammograms and contraception. Basically, if you were a woman and needed health care, the Global Gag Rule stuck its nose in and determined whether or not you received that care.
As one of those women who does need health care, I believe it should be guaranteed. I want access to providers, I want information and I want the choices to be mine and mine alone. Reagan and Bush, by passing the Global Gag Rule, were effectively gagging the very individuals and organizations that could provide the care, information and choices to women like me.
Some organizations took the gag and complied with the law, and the word ‘abortion” became taboo. These organizations could still provide their other services testing, some contraception, counseling about other things but the minute they informed a woman of all of her reproductive options, there went their funding. Were these NGOs cowards or victims? I say both. Many were dependent on US aid and had no choice. They were really forced to lie to their clients in order to fund the services they were permitted to provide.
Some heroic organizations with independent funding like Planned Parenthood and Family Planning of Ethiopia took the budget cut. They persevered in their mission to provide family planning services including abortion and therefore maintained their integrity in educating women. This brave move came at a huge cost. Some organizations nearly went under. Planned Parenthood the Big Mama of family planning organizations lost approximately $12 million due to the loss of federal funding. Twelve million dollars think of how many condoms that could buy and of how many pregnancies and STIs could have been prevented with those condoms!
The Mexico City Policy affected organizations catering to the most underserved populations in the world like in Africa, where the AIDS crisis is in full swing. The Global Gag Rule limited funding and subsequently the availability of education and testing to these populations. Learning about STIs and getting tested in these AIDS-stricken areas can mean the difference between using a condom and living a full life or contracting HIV and dying young.
How many new HIV infections were indirectly caused by the lack of funding to these well-meaning organizations? Thanks for nothing, Global Gag Rule!
The Rule was supposed to prevent abortions. But lack of access to abortion services never prevents abortions it only prevents safe abortions. Self-abortion often leads to grisly infections and uncontrollable bleeding. These women usually die. Eight women per hour die from unsafe abortions. By preventing access to safe abortion services or even counseling, during which women may decide not to abort the Global Gag Rule enabled many of these hourly deaths. So the Global Gag Rule did not prevent abortions. It increased maternal death, HIV transmission and unsafe sex. It decreased contraception use, availability of care and sex education. It robbed women of their choices and sometimes killed them.
By rescinding the Global Gag Rule, Obama has fortunately proven that he cares about giving women choices and generally keeping them alive. Thanks to him, funding will return to NGOs providing these services. The United States can finally resume its position as a role model in educating, protecting and advocating for women across the globe.
Yes, we can.
Glantz is a member of
the class of 2011.