Last Friday, on his third full day in office, our new president Barack Obama lifted the Global Gag Rule via executive order.
The Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, was first instated by President Ronald Reagan (then repealed by President Bill Clinton, and reinstated by President George W. Bush), and restricts U.S. funding to international reproductive health organizations that discuss the option of abortion with patients. U.S. funds were already not allowed to go towards actually providing abortions, but the Global Gag Rule put many additional restrictions in place. For the first time, organizations that provided abortions with other funding sources could not receive U.S. funds. Even worse, those organizations that did not provide abortions but discussed them as an option for their patients or promoted pro-choice policies in their home countries were also not eligible for funds.
In other words, under the Gobal Gag Rule, health providers were forced to chose between lying to their patients or having their funding cut off. Many of those providers who refused to lie to patients about their options subsequently closed down, making birth control and other reproductive health services inaccessible to many very poor women. Those who continued to accept funding were not allowed to tell patients how to receive an abortion even when they asked, or even if their lives were in danger from continuing the pregnancy. As a result, the Global Gag Rule resulted in more unintended pregnancies, more unsafe, do-it-yourself abortions, and the deaths of innumerable women -- all for the sake of anti-choice ideology.
Planned Parenthood proudly supports the decision to overturn the Global Gag Rule, knowing that it will protect women's heath, save lives, and prevent more unintended pregnancies among the world's most underprivileged women. We can hope that it's a sign that President Obama understands that access to honest, safe reproductive health care should not be a privilege for the world's wealthy few, but a right for all.