Exempting Contraceptive Supplies from Global Gag Rule
2nd June 2007
Under legislation passed by the US Congress late yesterday, life saving contraceptives donated by USAID will once more be able to be shipped to developing countries with an unmet need for family planning.
The landmark vote in the House of Representatives, which occurred today during the debate on the FY 2008 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, is being hailed as a victory for women and their families by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and family planning groups around the world.
The bill carried an amended provision put forth by Democrat Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) which will exempt badly-needed contraceptives from the Global Gag Rule (GGR), which was reintroduced in 2001 by President Bush.
The GGR´s stated aim was to reduce the number of abortions globally; instead, by defunding the most effective family planning organizations in developing countries, it has reduced contraceptive supplies and worsened unmet need for family planning around the world. Consequently, it has increased the number of unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions.
"There is no evidence that the Global Gag Rule reduces abortion," said Gill Greer, Director General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
"Instead, we know the policy has had a devastating effect upon women, men and young people who have been denied access to contraceptives and family planning services.
The Gag Rule has undermined decades of work to strengthen health care systems in the developing world and its only significant achievement has been more unintended pregnancy, more unsafe abortion, more misery and death. We thank the US House of Representatives for taking the first step in restoring common sense to U.S. global health assistance."
Resuming the flow of U.S.-donated contraceptives to local family planning providers overseas, will make a vast difference in the lives of women.
The House vote is a refreshing sign that there is room for a sensible, pragmatic approach to reducing unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion - improving access to contraception is key.
"In my country, the Gag Rule cut off donated contraceptives and completely disrupted decades of investment in building up health care services that provided family planning and mother and child health care in rural Ghana," said Joanna Nerquaye-Tetteh, former Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana, an affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. "I know because my organization lost more than 1000 community health care workers and I was the one who had to fire 60 clinic staff; it was my remaining staff that had to face the reality that we couldn't provide contraceptives and services to nearly 40,000 women who had formerly used our services."
"In Ghana we saw within a year of the Gag Rule being implemented a rise in sexually transmitted infections and more women coming to our clinics for post-abortion care as a result of unsafe abortion. In one of our northern clinics four young women died from unsafe abortion complications. This is the reality of the Gag Rule", she continued.
In addition, Congress voted to give greater flexibility to HIV/AIDS programs that receive US money with the defeat of the narrow-minded Pitts Amendment today in the House of Representatives. The Pitts Amendment attempted to strike common sense language from the bill that allows flexibility to PEPFAR recipient countries to determine what HIV prevention strategies make the most sense for their people, within their epidemic.
President Bush has stated that he is willing to veto the entire $34.243 billion bill over the provision to expand access to contraception, despite his insistence that he wants to make abortion rarer.
Gill Greer stated, "This would not only overturn the excellent work of the US Congress but it would deprive countries such as Burundi, Cote d´Ivoire and Sri Lanka of much needed contraceptives, as many members of Congress said during the debate. It is crystal clear. This amendment is about prevention and it will save women´s lives and these changes will make an enormous difference to women, men and their children worldwide."
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June 22 2007, IPPF