Breaking: Obama Reverses the Global Gag Rule

It’s official. The gag rule is no more.  (At least until our next anti-choice president, if legislative action isn’t also taken.)

International funding can now go to organizations that provide abortions with other funding, or simply offer counseling about abortion as an option from a different provider.  Desperately poor women with high risk pregnancies won’t have to die because their doctor can’t tell them about termination options.  Many will have more access to safe abortion care, and won’t die or face permanent injury due to risky do-it-yourself procedures.  Women won’t have to get pregnant because their local birth control clinic had to choose between no funding or substandard, dishonest care, and subsequently closed down.

Yes, he’s a day late.  And no, I haven’t quite forgiven him yet for his supposed reasoning on that.  But mainly, I’m just letting out one of the biggest sighs of reliefs I’ve ever sighed.

This is what change can mean. Thousands of women’s lives saved.  And after the past 8 years of this deadly policy, it’s about time.

For an objective look at what the Global Gag Rule entailed, check out this fact sheet from Reuters.  For the pro-choice version, see Planned Parenthood.

Thanks to Colleen for the link to the confirmation I’ve been waiting for all day!

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25 comments for “Breaking: Obama Reverses the Global Gag Rule

  1. Puppycat
    January 23, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Again, fantastic news…but there’s still the “anti-prostitution pledge” for HIV/AIDS groups that has defunded so much effective harm reduction. Here’s hoping…..

  2. Puppycat
    January 23, 2009 at 5:39 pm
  3. January 23, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Ya happy, now – Cara?! That fact sheet from Reuters is quite helpful, breaks it down nicely.

    Saw the breaking on my phone while on the way to work.

  4. January 23, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Ya happy, now – Cara?!

    YES I AM :)

  5. Sara
    January 23, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    While President Obama didn’t sign this on the Roe anniversary, he did sign it within his first week. I like his reasoning for waiting a day. He wants this act to help women and not just look like a pretty act. By waiting a day, I think he did take some of the knee-jerk reaction out of it. Hopefully more pro-life people will now look at what the global gag rule was and what it means now that it has been overturned rather than just bemoan that the country has passed another Roe anniversary.

  6. January 23, 2009 at 6:39 pm


  7. January 23, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    I have no problem with him denying a bunch of fetus worshippers one more thing to pity themselves over on their big day of crocodile tears for fertilized eggs and lost women. They have to cry at home about this new deprivation of the right to torture women for merely existing.

  8. Rachel
    January 23, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    When I left work at 4:45 I had zero unread emails. At 6:00 I had 20. “I’m thinking he rescinded the rule today… yeah…”

    Now we just need to work on undoing that ridiculous HHS rule. I’ve gotten my first taste of political win in a long, long time, and I like it.

  9. January 23, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    It’s really great news. For what it’s worth I was talking about this over coffee today with a blogger friend who works in one of the few independent women’s clinics that provide abortion services locally. I mentioned that he could have done it yesterday and her strong opinion was that he did everybody in her line of work a huge favor by waiting a day. While the gag rule was obviously framed as an abortion issue *by the Bush administration* the on-the-ground impact was across the board defunding of comprehensive care for women.

    Sure, tactically meant the cable news networks couldn’t use footage of yesterday’s anti-Roe protesters as the backdrop for the announcement. But signing it today also took it out of the right-wing frame that the rule affected only abortion access.

    I admit it hadn’t occurred to me, and listening to the news on the way home it didn’t sound like it occurred to the talking heads either. But my friend is extremely close to the issue both politically and practically. And she thought it was a good decision.


  10. Stlthy
    January 23, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    This is fantastic! Yay!!

  11. evil_fizz
    January 23, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    While the gag rule was obviously framed as an abortion issue *by the Bush administration* the on-the-ground impact was across the board defunding of comprehensive care for women.

    Yes. This.

  12. Diana
    January 23, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    I was 12 when Bush was “elected” in 2000, and before that, I was not very politically conscious. For so long I’ve had nothing but cynicism when it comes to the presidency. I can’t tell you how strange it is to see a president who is close to my ideals. Thank you President Obama!

  13. January 24, 2009 at 2:59 am


  14. RacyT
    January 24, 2009 at 3:11 am

    This week just keeps getting better.

  15. January 24, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Phew, I was getting nervous from all the delay yesterday, I thought he hadn’t signed this stupid rule away.

    And yeah, next the no-prostitution rule! And the HHS rule (which according to HHS is not being implemented anyway)! And Don’t Ask Don’t Tell!

  16. Puppycat
    January 24, 2009 at 9:28 am

    And hopefully congress will put some of this stuff into legislation too so it can’t just be overturned by the next president.

    Do you really think he will address the anti-prostitution pledge? Its super important but i don’t think it has the same sort of political backing as overturning the global gag rule did.

  17. Ursula L
    January 24, 2009 at 9:57 am

    One problem – lifting the executive order lets the next Republican president reinstate it.

    But I did see one thing, reading the memo. The gag rule banned funding of organizations that coerced abortion. (I’m thinking China’s one-child policy, here.) Coerced abortion is bad.

    A statute saying that we won’t fund coerced abortion could be used to codify that we do fund other types of abortion access. And best of all, it would be hard for “pro-life” candidates to vote against it, so it would get the bipartisan support Obama cares so much about. And it would tie the hands of future Republican presidents.

    So, I’ve sent an e-mail off to my senator and congresscritter about this, and if you’ve got a pro-choice representative, you may want to do the same. If you’re reps aren’t pro-choice, maybe not, as it is a bit sneaky, and why give away the surprise?

  18. January 24, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Ursula, I agree completely on the need and opportunity of putting this into legislation, but my reaction to your comment about the next Republican surprised me. When you said “lifting the executive order lets the next Republican president reinstate it”, my immediate reaction was “the next Republican president will be pro-choice.” I have no reasonable basis for making that claim, but it will be at least 8 year, most like 12 or 16 years before we see another Republican president. If so, the next Republican president will likely also be in favour of gay marriage.

  19. ProChoice
    January 24, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    For those interested, there are some great blog pieces on about the repeal of the GGR.

  20. urbanartiste
    January 24, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    I second getting rid of this thing entirely. It just keeps getting lifted and reinstated depending which party is in office. I am thrilled that he lifted it, but sad that it had to be done behind closed doors.

  21. January 25, 2009 at 8:50 am

    You know, I think it might help if we actually understood what the global gag rule does. Here’s a little list of facts.

    1. Foreign aid funding from the United States Government cannot be used to perform abortions, or to coerce women into having abortions. This has been true since 1961, and has never changed since. No US foreign aid funding is being used, or can be used directly to perform abortions, and nobody’s really challenged that as far as I’m aware. Ursula — I think you were confusing the 1961 law (which is not affected by Obama’s memo) with the 1984 “Mexico City Policy,” which is reversed by his memo and does not say anything about coercion as far as I’m aware.

    2. The 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, which spells that out, also says that US foreign aid funding cannot be used to motivate someone to have an abortion. It’s the interpretation of this phrase which led to contention and to the Global Gag Rule.

    3. The Global Gag Rule in 1984 expanded the 1961 prohibition by cutting off foreign aid funding to any organization that so much as provides information about abortion. This cut off funding to all sorts of organizations, most organizations that provide reproductive counseling services to women, for instance. It also cut off funding completely to organizations that DO provide abortions, and were doing so using other sources of funding. This is why it’s called the “Gag Rule” — if you say anything about abortions, if you provide information, counseling, referrals, or advocate for legalization or availability of abortions, then you are cut off.

    4. None of this is about money being provided to other governments; it’s about non-profit, non-governmental organizations that do work in foreign countries or internationally. It’s not a “bailout,” it has to do with the funding of groups like Doctors Without Borders and many other aid organizations.

    5. Obama’s memo reversing this order is called ” Mexico City Policy and Assistance for Voluntary Population Planning,” and I assume this is deliberate. The Gag Rule is about providing information and advocating for legalization and availability of services; “coercive population planning” is already off-limits from the 1961 law.

    The Global Gag Rule, in essence, is about forcing organizations that provide medical services internationally to stay in lockstep with the current American regime’s ideology. Not in services, which have been restricted for almost half a century, but in what you say. That’s why it’s called a “Gag Rule.” Many organizations were unwilling to gag their doctors and health care providers — in some cases it even violated the laws of countries they were working in to gag doctors this way — and so they lost funding and hundreds of thousands of women were unable to receive health care.

    Some of these arguments about “should the US provide foreign aid funding” and “why are we bailing out foreign countries” and “why are we paying for abortions” are totally false; most of them are besides the point. The Gag Rule does something very specific, and very obviously wrong.

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