The Center for American Progress commends President Barack Obama for today’s executive order that rescinds the “Mexico City Policy,” also known as the “Global Gag Rule.” We hope this action will be the first of many that President Obama will take to protect and advance the health of women at home and abroad.
The gag rule was instituted by President Ronald Reagan in Mexico City in 1984, lifted by President Bill Clinton on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 1993, and then reinstated by President George W. Bush on his first working day in office in 2001. The rule prohibited foreign organizations that receive U.S. development assistance from using their own funds to perform abortions; provide women with information, counseling, or referrals for abortion; or advocate for changes in law or policy that would make abortion legal and safe in their home countries.
More than 200 million women in the developing world lack access to family planning services. Even worse, approximately 70,000 women die from unsafe abortion and at least 5 million more suffer serious injuries and/or lifetime disabilities every year. These deaths and injuries are almost entirely preventable with better access to contraception and safe abortion services.
The global gag rule undermined progress on both these goals, did nothing to prevent abortion, and indeed likely contributed to an increase in the need for abortion around the world. It restricted funding for family planning organizations, leaving millions of women without access to essential contraceptive and other basic health care services. It interfered with the relationship between health care workers and their patients, forcing providers to withhold information and services from patients in need of care. And it undermined democracy and free speech by limiting the right of health experts and other advocates to participate in political debate about a critical public health issue.
We are pleased that President Obama has reversed this devastating policy, and we look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead to advance women’s health and rights throughout the world.
Read more about CAP’s policies on women’s health and rights: