Reversing the gag rule

REVERSING THE GAG RULE…. Following up on an item from Tuesday, President Obama is poised to follow through on a campaign promise and scrap the global gag rule in an executive order today.

President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order ending the ban on federal funds for international groups that promote or perform abortions, officials told The Associated Press on Friday. […]

The policy bans U.S. taxpayer money, usually in the form of U.S. Agency for International Development funds, from going to international family planning groups that either offer abortions or provide information, counseling or referrals about abortion. It is also known as the “global gag rule,” because it prohibits taxpayer funding for groups that even talk about abortion if there is an unplanned pregnancy.

Also known as the “Mexico City policy,” it has been reinstated and then reversed by Republican and Democratic presidents since GOP President Ronald Reagan established it in 1984. President Bill Clinton ended the ban in 1993, but President George W. Bush re-instituted it in 2001 as one of his first acts in office.

One interesting angle to this is the timing: both Clinton and Bush acted on the measure on Jan. 22 — the anniversary of the Roe decision at the Supreme Court. Obama deliberately waited a day, issuing a statement on reproductive rights on the 22nd, but reversing the policy on the 23rd. It’s a subtle and inconsequential gesture, but it was apparently intended as an understated olive-branch to his critics who oppose Obama over his support for abortion rights.

Regardless, the gag rule has undermined family-planning and healthcare programs around the world for eight years, putting women’s health in jeopardy, particularly in the developing world. Today’s executive order from Obama will make a huge difference.