TRC Logo, January 23, 2009

Obama Rescinds Global Gag Rule

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 - President Barack Obama today issued an executive order reversing the global gag rule, paving the way for restored U.S. funding for international non-governmental organizations that provide life-saving family planning services.

The global gag rule, or the “Mexico City policy,” is a U.S policy that requires foreign non-governmental organizations to agree they will not “perform or promote abortion” in exchange for family planning assistance from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Specifically, they may not use their own non-US funds to provide information on request to pregnant women about the option of legal abortion, provide legal abortion services or engage in any abortion-related public policy debates.

The reproductive health community believes that the rule harms women by preventing health clinics from providing them life-saving information on all available options and has forced some service providers in underserved areas to close. The policy, they argue, would be an unconstitutional abuse of free speech if applied in the United States.

The policy, named for the conference at which it was drafted in 1984, was first instituted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984; rescinded by President Clinton on Jan. 22, 1993; then reinstituted by President George W. Bush on Jan. 22, 2001.

"Women's health has been severely impacted by the cutoff of assistance. President Obama's actions will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, abortions and women dying from high-risk pregnancies because they don't have access to family planning," said Tod Preston, a spokesman for advocacy group Population Action International.

Reporters can contact the following experts on today’s decision:

Susan Cohen, Guttmacher Institute, 202-296-4012, extension 4224

Ellie Smeal, Feminist Majority, 703-522-2214

Brian Dixson , Population Connection, (202) 745-3152

Tod Preston, Population Action International, (202) 557-3400

Elizabeth Maguire, Ipas, (919) 967-7052

Cara Hesse, Pathfinder International. (617) 924-7200, extension 216 will continue to post updates on developments.

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