Jesurgislac’s Journal

January 24, 2009

Global Gag Rule: GONE

From IPAS:

First implemented in 1984 during the Reagan administration, the policy bans any organization receiving U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funds from using their own, non-U.S. funds to provide any abortion services or to lobby their own governments to make abortion laws less restrictive. (The Helms Amendment, passed in 1974, made it illegal to use USAID funds for any abortion activities.)

President Clinton repealed this: President George W. Bush reinstated it. When Bush’s staffers complain that Bush didn’t get the “credit” for financing work against AIDS in Africa, they prefer not to consider that in November 2005, the Bush Administration formally expanded the Global Gag Rule to U.S. global AIDS funding under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), according to the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE). The restrictions appeared as part of a five-year, $193 million request for applications (RFA) for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in Kenya: the RFA, entitled, “HIV/AIDS & Tuberculosis, treatment, care and support” referenced the gag rule twice in stating eligibility criteria, stating that all consortium partners must “agree, to abide by the Mexico City Policy [the official name of the global gag rule], the Tiahrt Amendment, and all USAID policies and regulations.” cite

From How a US policy restricting family planning funding is hampering efforts to fight HIV and AIDS by Kathambi Kinoti (Resource Net Friday File Issue 254, December 2005):

The global gag rule has disrupted the crucial HIV/AIDS intervention role of FPAK, Marie Stopes and numerous other organizations. Just as it is impossible to separate family planning services from efforts to fight HIV and AIDS, it is impossible to separate family planning services from abortion-related issues. When an anti-abortion muzzle is put on reproductive health providers, all the other beneficial seivices that they provide are eroded. Without adequate access to contraception and reproductive health care and education, the rate of both safe and unsafe abortions will increase. Most family planning centres also have to deal
with the after-effects of underground, unsafe abortions.

Pretending that the war against HIV/AIDS will be won when sex takes place within the confines of marriage is counterproductive, and restricting funding solely to organizations that promote the myth is lethal. It will result in a waste of money and the victory of HIV and AIDS.

There’ll be a lot of pro-lifers angrily protesting the repeal of the global gag rule across the right-wing blogosphere. Today, tomorrow, all year. They’ll call Obama the “pro-abortion President”. What these complaints about this repeal reveal is: these are people who do not give a damn about the lives of some of the poorest women in the world. They do not care if women in Ethiopia, Nepal and Nigeria lost access to family planning clinics. They do not care about the sixty thousand or more women each year who die from illegal abortions.

All they want is to sit in their safe little houses rubbing themselves up with their sense of superior morality that, by God, their taxes don’t go to pay for clinics that also provide abortions! They are, in the classic sense, Pharisees: indifferent to anything but their own feelings of moral superiority.

Dr Gill Greer, the director general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, estimated the gag rule had cost the group more than $100m for family planning and sexual and reproductive health programmes during the eight years of the Bush administration, which she said amounted to 36 million unplanned pregnancies and 15 million induced abortions. These pro-lifers will try to claim they support the global gag rule because they oppose abortion… proving them either liars, or stupid.

“The gag rule has done immense harm and caused untold suffering to millions around the world. It has undermined health systems and endangered the lives and health of the poorest and most vulnerable women on the planet by denying access to life saving family planning, sexual and reproductive health and HIV services and exposing them to the dangers of unsafe abortion.”cite

The global gag rule is gone. Nothing can undo the damage Bush did by reinstating it and enforcing it, especially in Africa where his extension took so much money away from useful anti-AIDS programs – how many people became infected with HIV because Bush wanted to pander to the Christian right? – but it’s gone, and the world is better for it.

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November 14, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 9

What’s next?

9 Repeal the global gag rule.

The Global Gag Rule was re-instated by George W. Bush on his first day office. It was a promise of symbolic support to the misogynistic Christians who are the backbone of the forced pregnancy movement, and it was a warning to people round the world who regard women as human beings and care about human life.

The global gag rule is a rule that no recipient of US aid may advise women on where they can get an abortion. They may not even talk about the need for safe legal abortion, or the damage that lack of safe legal abortion does to women.

In a world where lack of access to safe legal abortion kills over 60 000 women each year, the global gag rule is a monstrosity, justified by hypocrites who claim “each life is precious” – and who don’t care how many people die because of it.

Okay, break’s over!

September 28, 2008

Being “Pro-life” has nothing to do with being pro life

A few years ago on Obsidian Wings, Von (then one of the conservative front-page posters) put up a pic of a fetus and titled the post Why I’m pro-life. (Von added that his partner is pro-choice, and that they have long ago quit having dinner table conversations about it.)

When debating with or about pro-lifers, I am in the habit of using their own name for their own movement, because I do think people have a right to name their own identity: but I also feel that it’s necessary to point out that being “Pro-life” is not actually, literally, about being pro-life: it’s about being pro forced pregnancy.

One of the “pro-life” commenters on my post The basics: why pro-choice is the only moral option took exception to my pointing this out: Opple claimed it was an unfair attack, but of course it is not:

Being pro-choice means that, regardless of your personal opinion about abortion, in general or in particular, you support every woman’s right to decide for herself whether or not she will have a baby, and every pregnant woman’s right to make decisions for herself, in consultation with her doctor, regardless of how advanced her pregnancy is. Although being pro-choice and being feminist are intrinsically intertwined (a person who believes women ought not to be allowed to control our own bodies is patently not a feminist…) a person need not necessarily be a feminist to be pro-choice: you could hold sexist beliefs about women without necessarily believing that women ought to be used as incubators.

Being pro-life means being part of a movement that believes the government should have the right to force a woman through pregnancy and childbirth against her will, and that the legislature and the courts should have the right to make medical decisions for pregnant women, overriding their wishes and their doctor’s advice. Von’s excuse for being part of this movement is, he asserted by his post, the cute li’l fetus argument: which would make more sense if those cute li’l fetuses really did incubate in jars rather than requiring a pregnant woman to make use of her body and blood and resources in a nine-month effort that may jeopardise her life.


I adopted a cute lil’ American fetus
from Fetusmart! Hooray fetus!

Forced pregnancy, or as a friend says “forced labour”, is a much more accurate name for the movement to deny women the right to access abortion: but pro-life is so utterly contradictory that it almost works as a label so divorced from the reality of their political movement.

Around the world each year, more than 500,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth due to lack of proper care. What does the pro-life movement focus on?

The Global Gag Rule

The Global Gag Rule was reinstated by President George W. Bush on his first day in office in January 2001. Officially termed the Mexico City Policy, these restrictions mandate that no U.S. family planning assistance can be provided to foreign NGOs that use funding from any other source to: perform abortions in cases other than a threat to the woman’s life, rape or incest; provide counseling and referral for abortion; or lobby to make abortion legal or more available in their country.

Called the “gag” rule because it stifles free speech and public debate on abortion-related issues, the policy forces a cruel choice on foreign NGOs: accept U.S. assistance to provide essential health services – but with restrictions that may jeopardize the health of many patients – or reject the policy and lose vital U.S. funds, contraceptive supplies and technical assistance. (The Global Gag Rule Impact Project)

The Global Gag Rule Impact Project notes that “the gag rule is eroding family planning and reproductive health services in developing countries. There is no evidence that it has reduced the incidence of abortion globally. On the contrary, it impedes the very services that help women avoid unwanted pregnancy from the start”. (Over a year before Bush reinstated the global gag rule, a paper was published that showed countries that have poor family planning services have a high rate of abortions: there was no global correlation between easy access to safe/legal abortion and a high abortion rate.)

Von and Sebastian (both front-page pro-lifers on Obsidian Wings – though both are currently on hiatus) have both consistently argued against universal free health care in the US – both only support people having access to health care if it can be made profitable to someone. They have consistently refused to explain how their ideological belief that anyone too poor to have health insurance does not deserve decent health care, fits with their ideological belief that no woman ought to be allowed to decide to terminate a pregnancy: and it is that refusal that firmed my belief that even pro-lifers who otherwise come across as decent, sensible, honest people, are being more or less insincere when they claim that they only want to prevent women from having the legal right to choose because they care about the fetuses. “Care for fetuses” is not expressed by denying women healthcare, or denying pregnant women mandatory paid maternity leave with the right to return to work, or by arguing that the baby can always be taken away from the mother as soon as born and given to wealthier parents – the old “adoption instead of abortion” argument, which in any country with so many unwanted children in need of adoptive parents, is just about the ugliest argument for forced pregnancy that anyone could possibly make.

I wrote this over four years ago:

We can all agree that abortion is a bad choice to have to make. Where are the pro-life Republicans calling for free health care for pregnant women and for all children to the age of 18? That basic, human help alone could make the difference between “Can afford” and “Can’t afford”. Where are the pro-lifers calling for free contraception to be available to all? For free daycare and nursery schools available to all low-income parents? For good, detailed, thorough sex education (the Netherlands have an excellent model) available to all children, well before they’re old enough to be actively interested in sex themselves, and regardless of their parents’ opinions on how much their children ought to be kept in ignorance? How many pro-lifers – Republican or Democrat – are actively campaigning for parents to have federal employment rights enabling them to maintain a career and be good parents? (I’m not just talking maternity leave or paternity leave or even “children’s sick days”. I’m talking an end to the work culture that says you don’t get promoted unless you’re putting in 12-hour days at your desk and always have unused leave at the end of the year.)

I’ve written similar comments since: no conservative pro-lifer has ever tried to engage this argument, and justify their denial of care to pregnant woman with their insistence that every fetus must be protected.

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