Gagging the Gag Rule for Good


Written by Mimi Seidner, a Ms. Magazine blogger

In three years, one of the most volatile on-and-off-again relationships in American history will celebrate its 30th anniversary: that of the Global Gag Rule and U.S. global policy. But if Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) can convince her Senate colleagues, the gag rule might not live to receive its pearls.

The rule (also known as the Mexico City Policy) was instated through executive order by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, prohibiting NGOs who depend on U.S. international family planning funding from providing information about abortion services; referring patients to safe, clean, legal facilities for abortions; or simply mentioning abortion services, even as an option in countries where abortions are legal. It has been estimated to have led to the deaths of thousands of women who sought illegal, unsafe abortions because that was the only choice they had.

Sen. Boxer, along with Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and fifteen other colleagues, has reintroduced the Global Democracy Promotion Act to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule, preventing future executive orders from reinstating it. This permanence is needed because the gag rule is a political football, rescinded by President Bill Clinton, reinstated by President George W. Bush, repealed again by President Barack Obama and now up for both reinstatement and permanent repeal.

Sen. Boxer has pointed out that,

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.

Permanently ending the Global Gag Rule would save NGOs the heartbreak of choosing between accepting American family planning assistance under draconian anti-abortion restrictions or limiting vital services, cutting staff and ultimately closing clinics. It would also save women’s lives.

This post was originally published by Ms. Magazine.


Related Stories:

House Republicans Vote to Reinstate the Global Gag Rule

Texas Rep: Of Course There’s a War On Birth Control!

Big Jump in Unplanned Pregnancies For Poor Women


Photo from Lodigs via flickr creative commons


SeattleAnn S.
Ann S5 years ago

Why has a rule enacted by an actor long ago who had Alzheimer's during his presidency and who tear-gassed students peacefully protesting while governor of California so difficult to get rid of? Obviously, it can be said that each president has made both good and bad decisions, but this one is not only ludicrous in imposing bully political male choices on women but is also out-of-date. There are nearly SEVEN BILLION people in the world now and a growing number of families who cannot feed or care for their children. Is our answer really to encourage people in these conditions to keep breeding in ignorance? Who is going to take responsibility for these children? Certainly not the ones supporting the gag rule or encouraging unchecked breeding of humans. There's no common sense behind this rule at all - ZERO.

Sam T.
Samantha Trosky5 years ago

Rosemary, the sad thing is when I was working to get donations for Planned Parenthood Action Fund (the part that fights for our rights) soooo many women and young girls would walk past me and laugh! Some would stop and be shocked that we might lose our rights. Many think that we have our rights and we will not lose them. It was very sad and heartbreaking for me to see so many foolish people that are hurting all of us! I wanted to grab some of them and give them a nanny shake and yell at them, but I didn't. I behaved.
I just wish I knew a way to make these people wake up!

Rosemary Graf
Rosemary Graf5 years ago

Women must stand up & demand they have control of their bodies,

Dan C.
Dan Cas5 years ago

Grace, isn't that exactly the dillemma in making the decisions on both the laws governing life (abortion) and death penalty? Why can some "Christians" cheer for the death count?

Grace Adams
Grace Adams5 years ago

I would rather make Depo Provera injections for women of childbearing age a condition for Community Service Employment Programs than interfere with a woman's right to choose birth control or abortion over carrying to term--BUT I would rather not have that either all else being equal.

Dan C.
Dan Cas5 years ago

Barbara, right on! right on! We, the people, still have the right to choose our leaders, if we will get off our disenchanted asses and "just do it"! ;-0. The thing is maybe we also need a "truth in advertising" law. If you say you will focus on jobs and if you don't we get to kick you out of office in the first 6 months! ;-) (and no more fat pension, 2 day "work" week or federal health care!

Barbara S.

So... DON'T cast a vote for President, and see how fast that gets us a Republican Leader who is SURE to overturn every part of our Constitution that gets in their way to control all the rest of us, while the rich can still get whatever they want, whenever they want it, even if they have to go to other countries to obtain services which will be illegal and unaffordable here, for the other 98% of us who really DO work hard.

Sam T.
Samantha Trosky5 years ago

Bonnie and Dan if you start the Barbara Boxer appreciation club I want to join! Actually I want her as my president! I have Dick Durbin to represent me and he is great, but Barbara Boxer is my shero!
Also, I know Obama is for women's rights, but I still called the White House at 202-456-1111 and made it clear that I support the removal of the Gag Rule and I am very pro-choice and I also support the jobs bill! Please everyone support freedom of speech and women's rights and make the phone call too!

Dan C.
Dan Cas5 years ago

Bonnie, maybe we should all start a Barbara Boxer appreciation club! I have been a long time supporter of hers too! I think that you state a very good way to frame the debate. Do we (citizens of US) consider modern day women "intelligent" enough "human" enough to have the right to decide what to do with their bodies or do man made papyrus get to decide? As a non-theist, myself, I say each of our bodies is our own and we should all be able to do what we will with them as long as we don't affect the rights of others.

Lilithe Magdalene

May the gag rule be forever banished!!