What are the Facts on Global Gag rule?

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In order to understand what a Global Gag rule is, one needs to first know what a Gag rule is all about. A Gag rule is a rule that prohibits freedom of speech and decision making capacity. Such rules are usually controversial and criticized as they ban the basic right of freedom of speech. The Global Gag rule is a government policy of the United States of America. This policy states that all foreign Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are receiving the country’s government funds to function and serve the needy, should not misuse these funds in order to promote or perform abortion as a means of family planning. This rule has been a topic of debate and criticism ever since its inception in August 1984 and exposes the ways in which the political administrations have been playing with the rule and the lives of many women all over the world. It is understood that the Republican Party has strongly adopted this policy while the Democratic Party has obviously annulled the policy.


Why is the Global Gag rule known as Mexico City Policy?

The Global Gag rule is also known as the Mexico City Policy. This is because the rule itself was first announced in the United Nations International Conference on Population at Mexico in 1984 by the then U.S. President Ronald Regan. The policy was drafted by the Assistant Secretary of State, Alan Keys.


What were the consequences of instituting the Global Gag rule?

The announcement and implementation of the Global Gag rule mandated foreign NGOs to meet all the conditions laid thereof in order to be eligible for federal funding from the United States. This left many international abortion agencies such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation being denied a major chunk of the funding. Other important family planning NGOs in countries such as Ethiopia and Zambia too did not adhere to the Mexico City policy (Global Gag rule) and had to face a cut in their funding. However, a few organizations in countries like Romania and Colombia adopted the laid down Global Gag rule and have been getting continuous federal funding ever since. While the Global Gag rule was in action since 1984 to 1993, President Bill Clinton had repealed the Mexico City Policy in 1993 and stressed his opinion that the policy was being generalized beyond limits and was posing as a danger to the humanitarian efforts of NGOs who were promoting safe and trusted methods of family planning in foreign countries. However this initiative was short-lived as it was once again reinstated by President George W. Bush in 2001 by justifying that the funds received from tax payers in U.S. did not deserve to be used for inappropriate practices like abortion in U.S or in other foreign countries. In the meanwhile an amendment was also suggested which could define the scope of funding conditions with regards to the Mexico City policy. However this was not a successful trial. The world saw sanctions in the name of Global Gag rule until 2009 in which the newly elected President Barack Obama once again repealed the Mexico city policy.

While this is true about the policy, it is also a fact that certain countries like South Africa deem it illegal to not provide crucial information and assistance to a woman who wishes to have a voluntary abortion for whatsoever is the reason. The only organization that has been excluded from this policy is the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief.



What is the Scope of the Global Gag rule?

The Global Gag rule that was invoked in 1984 by the President Ronald Regan stated that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) should stop funding the non-governmental organizations in foreign countries which could possibly use these funds for activities like counseling couples and women, providing information on abortion or where it could be performed and attempting to influence the country’s legislation to make abortion as a legal method of family planning. NGOs were also wooed with schemes like USAID grant awards and higher funding if they adhered to the policy. The policy was very strict on many organizations and the only exception to permit abortion was in conditions of rape, molestation or any life threatening situation that could very well harm the mother.



What is the Public opinion on Global Gag rule?

The people in the United States as well as a majority of the world’s population agrees that the Global Gag rule should be removed completely in order to provide better opportunities for family planning so that many countries benefit from the real motive of federal funding. More than 61% of the U.S. citizens agree that federal funding should be used to facilitate knowledge, resources and empowerment to the people in developing nations with regards to family planning techniques and not just abortion as a subject matter. This goes to show that a lot of people think wisely that abortion can be a very powerful technique of family planning apart from just being tagged as a way of exploitation by women who want to get rid of unwanted pregnancies. People feel the US government should continue funding the foreign NGOs in their quest to facilitate family planning methods instead of imposing illogical conditions. The Vatican however was instantly critical of the repeal of the Global Gag rule by Obama and they have condemned this move.


What are the Facts one needs to know about the Global Gag rule?

It is widely believed that the Global Gag rule is a clever political ploy to deprive needy women in developing nations of their basic rights like access to contraceptives and consequently family planning. While many people argue on both sides of the rope, there are certain facts one needs to know about the Global gag rule such as:

  • The U.S. taxpayer’s money is not being used for funding abortion domestically or abroad. There are already several amendments passed much earlier in 1973 which prohibit the taxpayer’s money from being used for funding or encouraging abortion both domestically and abroad. Thus the Global Gag rule is not really required, if that is the reason why it is reinstated.
  • Many vital NGOs and family planning organizations lost out on crucial funding and other resources like contraceptives at a time when the scary issue of AIDS and population control were much more significant.
  • While the policy was laid down to reduce the number of abortions being performed, in reality it acted on the contrary with rising unplanned pregnancies and an equal number of women who wanted to go in for abortion. Tackling this issue with a hot rod was definitely not THE solution.
  • While many people arguably justify the Global Gag rule, it is evident that the term contraception has been highly misunderstood. People need to agree that contraception did not mean abortion alone whereas it includes more important methods like condoms, oral pills, UIDs etc. By denying funds for such noble causes, it is doing more harm than good.
  • Family planning also helps women lead healthier lives. It empowers a woman or the couple together to decide about their family and the health of the mother.
  • Family planning methods and information helps people to stay educated on the possible sexually transmitted diseases and infections.
  • This rule undermines the sovereignty of other countries that seek funding from the U.S since the rule becomes more important as compared to the country’s own legislative laws.
  • The rule altogether curbs the freedom of speech for women in developing countries who wish to have their say on family planning. By closing down all avenues intentionally, these women are exposed to unwanted pregnancies and other health hazards.


What is the Impact of Global Gag rule on a broader level?

The imposing of the Global Gag rule directly indicates that international family planning programs and reproductive health education initiatives will be hit hard and will have to be shelved. This will lead to a deep impact in most of the developing nations which are beneficiaries of the USAID program. It is estimated that around 40 million women and couples across the globe receive assistance on contraception and other aid like supplies as well. It is also predicted that this initiative will help prevent close to millions of compulsive abortions and thousands of maternal deaths thus keeping the womenfolk healthy. After all, a healthy family unit will result in a healthy society on a broader canvas. If this policy is imposed, all the said benefits will be nullified and a negative impact will be seen.


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