Rep. Lowey Introduces Bill to Stem Efforts to Gag Overseas Groups on Abortion

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(PRESS RELEASE) Pushing back against recent efforts by opponents of reproductive rights to reimpose the Global Gag Rule, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that the Center for Reproductive Rights says will protect U.S.-supported family planning groups overseas against politicized attacks.
 
The Global Democracy Promotion Act, co-sponsored by 103 members of Congress led by Rep. Lowey, guarantees that the U.S. may not discriminate when funding overseas groups based on the type of health or medical services they provide. The Global Gag Rule prohibits family planning groups based overseas from discussing or providing abortion-related services, even if they use their own money.
 
“When the Global Gag Rule was in effect, countless women were condemned to illegal and unsafe abortion, organizations’ free-speech rights were trampled upon, and their advocacy efforts were crippled,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Representative Lowey has introduced a bill that is vital to holding the line against purely ideological attacks that restrict, if not completely cut off, the availability of family-planning services in communities overseas.
 
“Such a policy would be unconstitutional at home, and such an un-democratic and un-American policy should not be applied against groups overseas. We strongly urge our elected officials to approve this legislation and protect women’s health and democracy.”
 
President Obama rescinded the Global Gag Rule in 2009, eight years after the policy was re-instated by President George W. Bush. But last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to re-impose the policy. The Center has been vigorously combating the gag rule since 2001 and supported the effort in the House to introduce the Global Democracy Promotion Act.
 
Because USAID is the leading global funder of family planning, from 2001 to 2009 the Global Gag Rule forced a number of organizations to forgo U.S. funding and either scale back their services or close down. In countries where abortion is legal, providers could not provide their patients with full range of reproductive health options, even when their patients’ health was endangered. And groups worldwide that continued to receive funding were prevented from speaking out in favor of access to safe abortion.