I’m already covered in goose bumps anticipating the inauguration of Barack Obama later today, but there’s something else that I’m looking forward to more: the expected reversal of what’s known as the Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy.
Conceived of during the Regan administration, the Global Gag Rule prohibits US tax dollars from funding any international family planning clinic that as much as mentions the word “abortion” to its clients. (N.B.: these agencies weren’t necessarily providing abortions, simply mentioning abortion as an option to their clients, or lobbying for pro-choice laws were verboten.) The lack of US funding had a huge human cost, as cash-strapped clinics in the developing world were muzzled, unable to provide women with information on basic birth control, leading to untold numbers of unwanted pregnancies and maternal deaths. I wrote about a grass roots effort to replace the funds in 2004.
Bill Clinton suspended this gag rule when he took office, and George W.Bush restored it on his first day in office. Obama now has a chance to put this right, and he should do it today. We should never restrict the free flow of medical information based on a political agenda.