Women are dying from preventable causes and the
U.S. is contributing to the problem.
This was the grave truth repeated at last Wednesday’s hearing before the House
Committee on Foreign Affairs on the Global Gag Rule (Mexico City policy)—the
first hearing of its kind in the last decade. Women are dying because the U.S.
Global Gag Rule is preventing them from getting the reproductive health care and
supplies they desperately need to prevent unwanted pregnancies. For the first time since President Bush took office, both houses of Congress have passed legislation to right this wrong.
This hearing was a long-overdue opportunity for Congress to
better understand the real-life, destructive consequences of the Gag
Rule on women and children. Members of the committee heard first-hand how this
restriction’s cut-off of family planning services is increasing unwanted
pregnancies, abortions and maternal mortality. Witnesses testifying at the
heavily attended hearing included Duff Gillespie, PhD,former Senior Deputy
Assistant Administrator for the Global Health Bureau at USAID and current PAI
Board member; Ejike Oji, MD, Country Director for Ipas-Nigeria; and Joana
Nerquaye-Tetteh, PhD,former Executive Director, Planned Parenthood Association
“The Global Gag Rule exacerbates the situation in Nigeria
whereby women have no choice about how to manage their own lives. That is what
makes me so angry, because at the end of the day it is our women—our wives,
daughters, and sisters—who are dying,” Dr. Oji testified. The Global Gag Rule
prevents USAID from working with organizations that can most effectively
increase the use of family planning—largely through rural distribution. This
is an incredibly dangerous gamble in Nigeria where nearly one-third of
women say they have had an unwanted pregnancy and half of those have attempted
Ghana has also been hit hard by the
Global Gag Rule. According to Dr. Nerquaye-Tetteh, as a result of this
U.S. policy, access to family
planning was significantly reduced and the number of unintended pregnancies and
new sexually transmitted infections both increased. Immediately following the
imposition of the Gag Rule, and PPAG’s refusal to sign the policy, they saw a
50% increase in the number of women seeking post-abortion services.
While some supporters of the policy tried to make the case
that family planning is not harmed by the Global Gag Rule, this is simply false.
As Chairman Lantos stated in his opening remarks, “While the Global Gag Rule is
being promoted as anti-abortion, it remains at its core anti-family planning.”
By preventing funding from going to the organizations where they can be most
effective on the ground, the Gag Rule is the roadblock keeping life-saving
reproductive health care and supplies from women in need.
is clear that the Mexico City Policy is in fact thwarting our efforts to prevent
unintended pregnancies, abortions and the spread of HIV/AIDS,” said
Representative Nita Lowey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee on State-Foreign Operations.
The Global Gag Rule “is
unconstitutional, immoral, unsubstantiated and dangerous.”
The hearing was especially well-timed as President Bush
threatens to make good on his promise to veto the entire Fiscal Year 2008
foreign assistance spending bill over a provision that exempts contraceptives
from the Gag Rule’s restrictions. We urge the President to stop playing politics
with women’s lives and repeal the Gag Rule.