Overturning the Global Gag Rule

Tomorrow morning the House Foreign Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on the so-called Mexico City policy. Also known as the Global Gag Rule, it places restrictions on health care workers overseas that they would never have to face if they were based in the United States. The hearing will feature witnesses who are experts in the field, with first-hand knowledge about the destructive effects of these restrictions on women's health around the world.

Under the Global Gag Rule, if NGOs in developing countries spend one dime on any service remotely related to abortion, they are punished with the loss of U.S. funding. If a pregnant woman shows up at their doorstep, these organizations cannot even advise her that abortion is an option.

Ignorance about the availability of safe and legal abortions will do nothing to bring down the number of abortions performed. Quite the opposite -- as our witnesses tomorrow will describe in detail, a combination of restrictive access to contraception and limited information about women's options is creating tens of thousands of unwanted pregnancies among the world's poor. It is driving up the number of women's deaths caused by complications from unsafe abortions. We need to put a stop to these needless tragedies.

The Global Gag Rule, a Reagan-era policy that was abandoned during the Clinton Administration, was reinstated by the current president at the start of 2001. The sooner we change it, the better for everyone concerned. Our hearing is only a first step. We will work closely with leaders in the pro-choice community to overturn the Global Gag Rule, a deeply misguided and dangerous policy.