One of President Obama’s first acts in office was to issue an executive order overturning the Global Gag Rule (GGR), a restriction that prohibited the US from providing family planning assistance to foreign NGOs that dispensed abortion services or information about abortion using their own non-U.S. funds, even if abortion was legal in the countries where the NGOs were operating. This opened the door for far more NGOs to provide crucial services to women abroad.
Given the GOP’s current attempts to prevent all women from achieving healthcare, however, it’s unsurprising that House Republicans voted to include a broader and more damaging version of the GGR in a draft of the Fiscal Year 2012 Foreign Relations Authorization Act. According to the legislation,
“None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or any amendment made by this Act may be made available to any foreign nongovernmental organization that promotes or performs abortion, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term.”
Another law, the Helms Amendment, already prohibits U.S. funding from being used to support abortion care abroad. The GGR goes further, in that it denies support to organizations that would use the U.S. funds for contraceptives or counseling, as long as they were using their own money to provide abortion care. In other words, it requires NGOs to make an absurd choice: either forego U.S. funding, and continue to help women with access to abortion, or accept U.S. funding, and end all abortion-related services.
The restrictions in the draft legislation are more far-reaching than any past iteration of the GGR, which was implemented in the past by executive order. According to Congressman Howard Bermann, “The language in the bill not only bars family planning assistance to local health care providers in poor countries, it bars ALL assistance to such organizations – including HIV/AIDS funding, water and sanitation, child survival, and education.”
Even mentioning abortion as an option could be enough to preclude an organization from receiving funds.
Needless to say, this isn’t just a shot at women’s rights – it could undermine international development efforts of all kinds. Are GOP lawmakers really so dogmatic that they’re willing to deny funding to organizations that are providing assistance to struggling countries, simply because they provide abortion referrals? If this bill becomes law, we’ll see how far Republicans are willing to go in their war, not just against women, but against disadvantaged people worldwide.
Photo from BetteDavisEyes via Wikimedia Commons.