Obama’s Courage: His Repeal of the Global Gag Rule

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He may have done it quietly, but Obama did it: he reversed the “global gag rule,” otherwise known as the Mexico City policy (for the city in which it was first introduced in 1984, making it Reagan’s baby–no pun intended). Clinton repealed the gag rule in 1993, right after his inauguration, and Bush reinstated it right after his inauguration in 2001.

In the eight years since then, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) worldwide have been severely hampered in their attempts to educate people about family planning and to disseminate birth control. This is even if they never actually performed abortions, but only educated people about them. And even if they used their own funds, not federal funds from the U.S.; if they so much as uttered the word “abortion,” the U.S. withdrew its funding from them. Those organizations that continued to receive U.S. funds did so only by curtailing their services.

This has been going on for the past eight years! In that time, thousands of women and/or their babies have died in childbirth, and HIV has been on the rise (even the dissemination of condoms has been affected). The number of unwanted children world-wide has escalated. Apparently, it’s okay to bring misery into countless lives in order to prevent abortions and abortion counseling from being made widely available.

What gets me is that Reagan had the gall to announce the Mexico City policy at the United Nations International Conference on Population! As if to say: we need more people in this world, more infant and maternal mortality and more sexually transmitted diseases. Somehow I don’t think that was the conference’s intention. The United States’ position was a slap in the face for the United Nations, saying, in effect, we refuse to cooperate with the rest of the world in controlling world population growth, death and disease. The wealthiest nation in the world (for now anyway), stingily withdrew its support if the rest of the world didn’t measure up to its moral standards. And what really gets me is that those standards are not even held by the majority of the people in the U.S.! (See “Abortion in the United States” on Wikipedia.)

Obama may have done it on the Q.T., but at least he did it. Of course, I realize that this gives pro-lifers all kinds of grist for their mill. But it had to be done, if only to demonstrate the good will that the U.S. holds for the world and for the health and better quality of life of the people in it. The point that the pro-life movement doesn’t seem to get is that withholding assistance to programs that perform and counsel about abortion does not mean that there will be a vast reduction in the number of abortions. Abortions will still be performed, just as they were before Roe v.Wade in this country, but they will not be safe and, indeed, will often lead to the death or sterility of the women undergoing them.

Obama’s action is a first step in his program to make abortion less of an issue, not by sweeping it under the rug as so many liberals seem to do, but by confronting it head-on. If it is clear that the federal government holds abortion to be an inviolable right, then the pro-lifers will have to spend their energies elsewhere. They might even start caring for the women who have to make this decision and for the children who are brought into this world. Imagine that.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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