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Bill Permanently Overturning the Global Gag Rule Introduced in Senate

Jodi Jacobson

A bill that would permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule was reintroduced last night in the Senate. 

 A bill that would permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule (GGR) was reintroduced last night in the Senate.  The bill, known as the Global Democracy Promotion Act, was cosponsored by lead authors U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) along with 15 other Senators.

The GGR, also known as the “Mexico City Policy,” is an onerous policy that seriously undermines the rights and health of women and girls throughout the world. Usually dealt with through an executive order, Republicans have long tried to make it permanent, most recently in June.  The GGR blocks U.S. international family planning funding from going to any organization that in any way works to provide, refer, or ensure access to safe abortion services in countries where it is legal, or to change laws in those where it is not. 

Complications of unsafe abortion are a leading cause of pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity among poorer women worldwide.

Overturning the Gag Rule would ensure that foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) using their own funds to provide legal comprehensive reproductive health information and services remain eligible to receive U.S. assistance.

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Among other problems, the Gag Rule constitutes a violation of the principle of free speech.  As Senator Boxer noted:

“If the Global Gag Rule were applied in the United States, it would violate the First Amendment because it restricts what organizations can do or say with their own funds.  Ending this undemocratic policy is long overdue.” 

Senator Lautenberg also plans to offer the language to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule as an amendment to the FY2012 Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations bill during Wednesday’s mark up, as he has done for each of the past three years. 

Lautenberg said, 

“This legislation would permanently end the global gag rule and protect access to family planning services for women around the world. Ideological agendas should not prevent doctors from offering full and comprehensive reproductive health care to their patients. I am pleased to support this bill and will continue fighting to pursue the permanent repeal of this damaging policy through all legislative means available, including appropriations.”

Women’s health and rights advocates hailed the effort to repeal the Gag Rule.  Latanya Mapp Frett, Vice President – Global, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement:

“Planned Parenthood commends Senators Barbara Boxer and Frank R. Lautenberg for introducing the Global Democracy Promotion Act in the Senate.  This bill would once and for all end the global gag rule and the harmful limits it once imposed.

Recently introduced in the House by Congresswoman Nita Lowey, this bill would prohibit U.S. policymakers from attaching restrictions to foreign assistance that prohibit recipients of U.S. funding from carrying out activities that are legal in their countries and in ours.

“U.S. foreign aid should never be used as a tool to limit women’s access to health care or to impose unfair restrictions on the decision-making ability of independent organizations overseas,” she said.  “The women of the world need information and services, not censorship and restrictions.”

In addition to Senators Boxer and Lautenberg, original cosponsors of the bill include Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mark Udall (D-CO), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NY).

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