Global Gag Rule: Just Repeal It

President Obama and the new Congress can place American foreign policy firmly on the side of women's health, and we can do it quickly, simply, without a penny of cost to the taxpayers. Just repeal the "Global Gag Rule."

The economic crisis demands bold and immediate action, with
resources mobilized at every level to restore growth and stability. The
fight to achieve progressive change on energy, health, education, and
environmental policy will require years of sustained effort against
determined opposition. With Barack Obama’s leadership, we are ready to
wage these battles, but let’s remember that there are also immediate
actions that will achieve dramatic positive results quickly.

President Obama and the new Congress can place American foreign
policy firmly on the side of free speech, of women’s health, and of
doctors and care providers, who understand that family planning is a
cornerstone of social stability, economic growth, and public health in
the developing world. And we can do it quickly, simply, cleanly,
without a penny of cost to the taxpayers.

Just repeal the "Global Gag Rule."

This rule, which has been a major priority for conservatives, was
first enacted by Ronald Reagan in 1984 and restored eight years ago by
George W. Bush. The rule restricts U.S. family planning assistance —
including donated contraceptives that prevent unintended pregnancies —
from going to foreign NGOs that use funding from any other source to
perform abortions; provide counseling and referral for abortion; or
lobby to make abortion legal or more available in their country.

If applied here in the United States, such a rule would be patently
unconstitutional, a violation of free speech. Abroad, it is responsible
for untold misery and, in tragic irony, has almost certainly increased
the number of unintended pregnancies and put millions of women’s and
children’s lives at risk. International maternal and reproductive
health organizations often provide the only health services in some
third world villages. Many refuse to comply with this regulation that
endangers their patients and forego U.S. aid, scaling back their
capacity. Other providers accept the funding and with it the
constraints that prevent them from offering what are often life-saving

Since President Bush reinstated the "Global Gag Rule" on his first
day in office, my fight to overturn it has been stymied by Republican
majorities, then veto threats. In typical fashion, the Bush
Administration has resisted reasonable compromise. Just a year ago, the
foreign aid bill I authored would have allowed the federal government
to donate contraceptives to international health organizations. This
compromise passed Congress with the support of pro-choice and pro-life
Members, but President Bush threatened to veto all funding for
international aid to prevent it from becoming law.

I look forward to working in the new Congress with the Obama
Administration to finally repeal the "Global Gag Rule," as we pledged
in the Democratic National Platform during the campaign. Few actions
would benefit more people with less effort, or send a more dramatic
signal to the world that America is prepared once again to be a leader
for individual rights, personal dignity, and commonsense policy that
saves lives.

This article was originally posted at The Huffington Post.