Can we untie the global gag rule?

Jessica Reed
26 October 2007

[quote]"None of the funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning or to motivate and coerce any person to practice abortions.

None of the funds made available to carry part I of the Foreign Assistance Act may be used to pay for any biomedical research which relates in whole or in part, to methods of, or the perfomance of, abortions...

None of the funds made available... may be obligated or expended for any country or organisation if the President certifies that the use of these funds by any such country or organization would violate any of the above provisions related to abortions" [more...]

- H.R 2506, section 518 , known as the Global Gag Rule , Amendment to the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, often called the Global Democracy Protection Act [/quote]

In 2001 the Bush Administration reapproved the Glogal Gag Rule, which restricts foreign non-governmental organisations that receive USAID family planning funds from using their own, non-U.S. funds to provide legal abortion services, lobby their own governments for abortion law reform, or even provide accurate medical counseling or referrals regarding abortion.

Now let's put things in perspective: the US government, American philanthropic foundations and the donations of citizens provide more funding backing reproductive rights worldwide than any other country in the world. Effectively, it means millions of dollars each year are allocated to many programs apart from the ones tackling unsafe abortion and supporting family planning.

Andrew Arkutu (managing director of Pathfinder International in Ghana) and Rosemarie Muganda Onyando (executive director of the center for the study of adolescence in Kenya) both described the great damage done by the Glogal Gag rule to African NGOs: many family planning clinics closed down (especially in rural areas, where FP was the main provider of services). This means a rising number of abortions performed unsafely, at the risk of the mother.

What came out of the discussion is that there are a few ways to escape the gag rule: one is for non-profits to refuse the rule and therefore not receive US funding, and the other one is, well... to vote Democrat for the next elections.

Related: artist Heather Corinna's photographic take on the decree.

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