The Global Gag Rule is a U.S. policy that denies foreign organizations receiving U.S. family planning assistance the right to use their own, non-U.S. funds to either engage in any abortion-related public policy debates or perform legal abortions.
Created by popact on Dec 8, 2010
Last updated: 09/30/11 at 12:06 PM
Tags: women's health contraception global gag rule U.S. policies
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Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) successfully offers an amendment to permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule during the Senate Appropriations Committee’s consideration of the bill that funds the State Department and U.S. foreign assistance programs for fiscal year 2011. The amendment prevailed on a vote of 19 to 11. Joining Sen. Lautenberg in cosponsoring the anti-Gag Rule amendment were Sens. Collins, Diane Feinstein (D-CA), and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). Although President Obama has rescinded the Gag Rule, serious concerns remain about the prospect of a future President reinstating the policy. While family planning assistance can now be provided to the organiza¬tions best situated to deliver services on the ground, the typical five-year term of U.S. government-funded projects extend past the next Presidential election—leaving organizations affected by the Gag Rule (and the communities they serve) potentially vulnerable to an immediate cut-off of funding. It is this uncertainty that has led to reluctance on the part of some nongovernmental partners and U.S. government officials to enter into agreements with organizations that might be deemed ineligible for funding in the future.
A Senate bill includes an important new legislative provision which would more permanently protect international family planning providers from the Global Gag Rule. The provision, offered by Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) and adopted by the Appropriations Committee by a vote of 17-11 as part of its fiscal year 2010 foreign assistance bill, would prevent a future President hostile to family planning from unilaterally reinstating the Gag Rule through executive action. Although President Obama repealed the Gag Rule the previous January, reports from the field indicate that some U.S. funded organizations are still reluctant to partner with family planning providers who had been denied funding under the Bush administration because of the Gag Rule. The caution from the ground stems from uncertainty as to whether family planning providers will be able to participate throughout the full five-year U.S. government grant cycle or if they will be forced to withdraw from U.S. programs if the Gag Rule is reinstated by a new administration in four years.
On January 28th, just five days after President Obama repeal it, the Senate resoundingly defeated a surprise amendment to an unrelated children's health insurance bill (H.R. 2), offered by Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL), to restore the Global Gag Rule by nullifying the January 23rd presidential memorandum and by prohibiting U.S. family planning assistance to "any private, nongovernmental, or multilateral organization that performs or actively promotes abortion as a method of birth control." The amendment failed on a vote of 37 for and 60 against (the pro-family planning position). The Martinez amendment not only would have reimposed the Global Gag Rule on foreign NGOs, it sought to expand the reach of the restriction on eligibility to receive U.S. family planning assistance to U.S.-based organizations and multilateral organizations.
On January 23rd, President Obama rescinds the Global Gag Rule by issuing a presidential memorandum to the Secretary of State and USAID Administrator directing that the gag rule restrictions be excluded from all future USAID and State Department assistance awards and that the restrictions be removed from all current family planning grants and assistance agreements as soon as possible. In issuing the memorandum, President Obama released a statement that called the Global Gag Rule "unnecessarily broad and unwarranted" and noted that it had "undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries." He called for an "end to the politicization of this issue" and announced that his administration would "initiate a fresh conversation on family planning, working to find areas of common ground" and would "reach out to those on all sides of this issue to achieve the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies."
[In rescinding the Global Gag Rule, President Obama also announced his intention to work with Congress to restore a U.S. contribution to the United Nations Population Fund, pending the completion of the FY 2009 appropriations process.]
During the Democratic National Convention in Denver, delegates approved a party platform that states: "We will repeal the global gag rule and reinstate funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). We will expand access to health care and nutrition for women and reduce the burden of maternal mortality."
When the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted a full repeal of the Gag Rule during full committee markup of the FY 2009 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, Senate family planning supporters continued to register their opposition to this harmful presidential policy. (The House version of the bill is silent on the topic.) Final action on most of the FY 2009 appropriations bills was deferred until after the 2008 presidential and congressional elections, and funding for foreign aid programs remained part of a long-term continuing resolution at the end of 2008.
Although both the House and Senate adopted a contraceptive exemption to the Gag Rule—the first time both houses had repudiated this harmful policy in the same year since its imposition in 1984—the amendment was not enacted into law. Despite the fact both the House and Senate-passed bills contained an identical contraceptive exemption amendment, the provision was dropped during the House-Senate conference on the omnibus spending bill in the face of a veto threat by President Bush.
During its debate of the FY 2008 State-foreign ops bill, the Senate not only adopted a contraceptive exemption from the Gag Rule but went a step further and voted to repeal the Gag Rule entirely. The Senate vote marks the first time since the Gag Rule has been in force—from 1984 to 1993 and again since 2001—that both the House and Senate have passed legislation to repeal or modify the restriction that has wreaked havoc on family planning efforts, especially in Africa.
On a vote of 53 to 41, the Senate approved a bipartisan pro-family planning amendment authored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) that overturns the Gag Rule, an executive branch policy, by prohibiting the President from refusing to fund foreign organizations solely because they provide medical services, including counseling and referral, that are legal in their countries and are legal in the United States and from imposing free speech restrictions on foreign NGOs not imposed on U.S. organizations receiving assistance under the foreign aid program.
An anti-family planning amendment offered by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) that proposed striking the language incorporated in both the House and Senate bills expanding access to contraceptives by providing a limited exemption from the Gag Rule solely for USAID-donated contraceptives for foreign organizations otherwise ineligible for U.S. family planning assistance because of the Gag Rule was soundly rejected on a vote 41 to 53.
On a vote of 223 to 201, the House adopted an amendment to the FY 2008 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (H.R. 2764) inserted by Rep. Nita Lowey, the chair of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the legislation, exempting overseas NGO family planning providers from the restrictions of the Gag Rule that cuts off the flow of U.S.-donated contraceptives and condoms. Under this provision, providers that have refused to abide by the terms of the Gag Rule would be eligible to receive contraceptives from the U.S. government. Family planning opponents were unsuccessful in their efforts to strike the Lowey amendment from the House bill, specifically when an amendment by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Bart Stupak (D-MI) to delete the contraceptives exemption was rejected on a vote of 205 to 218. This was the first time that family planning advocates have won a clear-cut victory on an anti-Gag Rule amendment in the House since 1991.
During full committee markup, Senate appropriators approved an amendment to its version of the FY 2007 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that overturns the Gag Rule, an executive branch policy, by prohibiting the President from refusing to fund foreign organizations solely because they provide medical services, including counseling and referral, that are legal in their countries and are legal in the United States and from imposing free speech restrictions on foreign NGOs not imposed on U.S. organizations receiving assistance under the foreign aid program. (The House version of bill, also passed in full committee in June, did not contain a repeal provision.) The Senate language was dropped when Congress sent a long-term continuing resolution to keep the government funded to the President for his signature in February 2007.
An announcement of a request for application (RFA) for a five-year, $193 million integrated health project in Kenya triggered concerns that the gag rule had been extended to U.S. HIV/AIDS assistance. This was not the case. The RFA was for an integrated HIV/AIDS and reproductive health care project funded by both HIV/AIDS and family planning funds, and it was riddled with errors. The USAID/Kenya mission withdrew the RFA and reissued a corrected version in December maintaining the integrated nature of the project while clarifying that foreign NGOs receiving only HIV/AIDS assistance are exempt from the gag rule. The gag rule continues to apply to U.S. family planning assistance. However, a presidential memorandum issued in August 2003 specifically clarifies that HIV/AIDS assistance is exempt from the gag rule (link). Correspondence from Ambassador Randall Tobias, Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, and Kent Hill, Assistant Administrator for Global Health, USAID, reiterate that the gag rule does not apply to HIV/AIDS assistance.
During a House-Senate conference committee appointed to resolve differences between each chamber's respective version of the foreign operations appropriations bill, negotiators dropped a Senate-approved amendment stating that restrictions on family planning assistance -- most notably the Global Gag Rule -- should not be restrict efforts to expand access to condoms for HIV/AIDS prevention and of contraceptives to reduce the incidence of abortion. Such a provision has been included by the Senate for several years and has been similarly dropped. President Bush signed the final bill without the Senate amendment (H.R. 3057) on November 14
By a vote of 52-46, the Senate approves an amendment offered by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to the State Department authorization bill (S. 600). Incorporating provisions of the Global Democracy Promotion Act, the Boxer amendment would prohibit the President from refusing to fund foreign NGOs solely because they provide medical services, including counseling and referral, that are legal in their countries and are legal in the United States and from imposing free speech restrictions on foreign NGOs not imposed on U.S. organizations receiving assistance under the foreign aid program. At the end of the year, the Senate had not completed action on the bill, and the House version of the bill, approved in July, did not include any language on the gag rule.
On December 8, President Bush signs the FY 2005 consolidated appropriations act. As in the previous three years, the bill does not contain language overturning the Global Gag Rule, which had been incorporated in the Senate version of the foreign aid bill. Also dropped was a Senate amendment that waived restrictions on family planning, HIV/AIDS, and child survival programs if the policies (e.g. the Global Gag Rule) prevented efforts to "expand the availability and use of condoms for HIV/AIDS prevention and of contraceptives to reduce the incidence of abortion."
Report language accompanying the FY 2005 foreign operations appropriations bill (S. 2812) approved by the Senate directs the State Department's Global AIDS Coordinator and the USAID Administrator to communicate to all relevant federal agencies that the Global Gag Rule restrictions do not apply to U.S. HIV/AIDS assistance.
Hundreds of government officials, public-health experts and activists from around the world meet in London to mark the tenth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and to take stock of progress toward achieving the goals established in the ICPD Programme of Action. Media in the United States and abroad re-examine the ramifications of the Global Gag Rule on family planning and reproductive health clinics and providers in developing countries.
On January 23, President Bush signs the FY 2004 consolidated appropriation act. The bill does not contain language overturning the Global Gag Rule, which was inserted in the foreign operations section of the bill by the Senate in the fall of 2003, but later dropped during a House-Senate conference committee in November.
The previous day, the third anniversary of his reinstitution of the Global Gag Rule, the President touted his efforts in the international arena during a telephone address to anti-choice marchers protesting the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, stating that "working with the Congress, we have refused the spend taxpayers' money on international programs that promote abortion overseas."
The Senate version of the foreign operations appropriations bill passes, with language similar to that attached by Senator Boxer to the State Department authorization bill in July. This language would prohibit the President from refusing to fund foreign NGOs solely because they provide medical services, including counseling and referral, that are legal in their countries and are legal in the United States and from imposing free speech restrictions on foreign NGOs not imposed on U.S. organizations receiving assistance under the foreign aid program.
President Bush issues a memorandum to the Secretary of State directing that, in addition to international family planning funds channeled through USAID, the Global Gag Rule also apply to "family planning grants" awarded by the Department of State. At this point, it appears this extension of the rule will primarily affect refugee reproductive health activities, unless the implementation of the policy is dramatically expanded beyond the interpretation of the restrictions used by USAID historically. The memorandum specifically exempts multilateral organizations and HIV/AIDS activities.
The Senate goes on record in strong support of overturning the gag rule when a "motion to table" (or "kill") an amendment to the State Department authorization bill (S. 925) offered by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is defeated on a vote of 43 to 53. Incorporating provisions of the Global Democracy Promotion Act, the Boxer amendment would prohibit the President from refusing to fund foreign NGOs solely because they provide medical services, including counseling and referral, that are legal in their countries and are legal in the United States and from imposing free speech restrictions on foreign NGOs not imposed on U.S. organizations receiving assistance under the foreign aid program.
The Senate foreign policy bill is stalled, while the House-passed version does not address the global gag rule issue at all. President Bush announces his intention to veto the legislation if the final bill contains the Boxer amendment.
In a press briefing on the President's HIV/AIDS initiative, the White House makes clear that the White House is “not expanding the Mexico City policy to cover this HIV-AIDS program.” But there is nothing to prevent the President from changing his mind and extending the gag rule through executive action at any time.
Health professionals, lawyers, policymakers, non-governmental organizations, religious organizations and representatives of UNFPA, WHO and the World Bank come together in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the landmark "Action to Reduce Maternal Mortality in Africa" consultation on unsafe abortion. Participants resolve to reduce the impact and and incidence of unsafe abortion, and call on African governments and the world community to oppose the Global Gag Rule.
A policy shift contemplated by the White House is leaked to the press, alluding to a potential expansion of the Global Gag Rule to foreign NGOs receiving U.S. funds for a broader but undefined set of reproductive health activities, including activities funded through the $15 billion initiative promised by President Bush for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. An exception would have been made for some foreign NGOs ineligible to receive family planning assistance under the gag rule, if they also implement "discrete" HIV/AIDS projects.
In January 2002, President Bush freezes the $34 million U.S. contribution to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) approved by Congress in December 2001, at the behest of Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). Thus, throughout the FY03 budget process, Congressional supporters of international family planning focused on restoring UNFPA's funding, to the detriment of efforts to overturn the global gag rule. Regrettably UNFPA's funding remained in limbo until July 22, 2002, when the State Department officially announced the revocation of its contribution.Although anti-gag rule language was included in the Senate version of the FY2003 Foreign Operations Bill, it did not survive the House-Senate conference negotiations and the final bill presented to the President was silent on the issue.
The U.S. Senate approves language overturning the global gag rule in the $15.5 billion FY 2002 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act. Based on this language, taken from the Global Democracy Promotion Act, the President is prohibited from refusing to fund foreign NGOs solely because they provide medical services, including counseling and referral, that are legal in their countries and are legal in the United States and prohibited from imposing free speech restrictions on foreign NGOs not imposed on U.S. organizations receiving assistance under the foreign aid program.
Dr. Duff Gillespie, the Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Population, Health, and Nutrition Center at USAID, releases a 'Dear Colleague' letter reminding field offices, Cooperating Agencies and USAID-sponsored programs of the importance and permissibility of post-abortion care under the global gag rule.
On June 6, 2001, the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy (CRLP) launches a lawsuit against President George W. Bush, claiming that, "The global gag rule is global censorship that violates fairness, freedom, and democracy" in denying First Amendment rights to American lawyers working abroad with foreign partners. The New York federal court dismisses CRLP's suit on July 31, 2001, claiming that CRLP lacked the standing to challenge the President and that any censorship that is taking place is voluntary since accepting USAID funds is a voluntary process. CRLP appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. A year later, on September 13, 2002, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit also dismisses CRLP v. Bush, citing Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. v. Agency for International Development, 915 F.2d 59 (2d. Cir. 1990) wherein it was determined that the global gag rule does not violate the First Amendment right to free speech since the decision to accept USAID funding is based on "independent choice."
On May 2, 2001, the House International Relations Committee votes to include provisions of the Global Democracy Promotion Act as an amendment to Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2002 and 2003 (H.R. 1646). This amendment is sponsored by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA).
Later that month (May 17, 2001), the full House of Representatives, led by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), strike the Lee Amendment with a vote of 218-210, effectively ensuring the continuance of the global gag rule.
In the Senate, the Global Democracy Promotion Act passes the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a 12-7 vote on August 1, but the bill is never scheduled for consideration by the full Senate.
In response to increased agitation in the Congress against the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule, President Bush signs an executive memorandum, preventing Congress from challenging the policy under the 1996 Congressional Review Act. In addition, the memorandum clarifies that USAID funding may be used to treat women following both legal and illegal abortions, although necessary equipment for such care may not be purchased with USAID funds.
In response to President Bush's reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule, Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduces the Global Democracy Promotion Act of 2001 in the House (H.R. 755.); while Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduces the same language in the Senate (S.367). The bill would effectively repeal the Global Gag Rule, allowing disbursal of USAID funds to NGOs that counsel, refer, or advocate on behalf of abortion. The bi-partisan bills are co-sponsored by 31 senators and 71 representatives.
President George W. Bush marks the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade by reinstating the Mexico City Policy via an executive memorandum, one of his first official acts as the 43rd president of the United States. Under the reinstated 'Global Gag Rule,' post-abortion care would still be available through USAID-funded programs.
While the FY 2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act does not reinstate the Mexico City Policy, it includes provisions which delayed USAID from obligating any funds until February 15, 2001. Republican and Democratic members of the Appropriations Committee gamble on the outcome of the election, effectively giving the new president the power to determine the future of U.S. population assistance policy once in office.
To reach agreement on the payment of nearly $1 billion in U.S. back dues to the United Nations, President Clinton and the House Republican leadership agree to impose a modified global gag rule. The President is allowed to partially waive enforcement, but only on $15 million of total overseas family planning funding and at the cost of a $12.5 million funding cut.
Congress does not impose any new policy restrictions in the FY97 foreign aid bill, but caps the funding level for bilateral population assistance at $385 million, and mandates that these funds not become available until March 1, 1997-six months into the fiscal year. These funds are subsequently metered out at a rate of 8% of the total over the following 12½ months. In February, the House votes 220 to 209 and the Senate votes 53 to 45 to release family planning funds that had been blocked to punish President Clinton and congressional family planning supporters from both parties for refusing to accept the global gag rule.
As one of his first post-inauguration decisions, President Bill Clinton repeals the Mexico City Policy. In accordance with the Helms Amendment, however, NGOs must still maintain U.S. funds in a segregated account, none of which may be used for abortion services.
The FY 1992 Foreign Aid Appropriations Bill (H.Rept. 102-1011) includes language to reverse the Mexico City Policy, but is subsequently dropped following the threat of presidential veto from President George H.W. Bush.
Conference report on the FY 1992-1993 Foreign Aid Authorization Bill (H.R. 2508 - H.Rept. 102-225), including language to reverse the global gag rule, is rejected by the House in a backlash against foreign aid in a time of domestic economic troubles.
Investigators John Blane and Matthew Friedman release a report commissioned by USAID on the implementation of the Mexico City Policy in six countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan, and Turkey. While Blane and Friedman conclude that most Cooperating Agencies and subgrantees (foreign NGOs) are complying with the policy, the fear of losing USAID funding has led to overcautiousness concerning which activities are permitted under the Mexico City Policy. This caution has caused many foreign NGOs to avoid permitted activities for fear of losing funding. This fear and avoidance of permitted family planning activities highlights how the Mexico City Policy has a direct effect on access to reproductive health care and family planning services in developing countries, leaving women with fewer overall options.
The Pathfinder Fund, Population Council, and the Association for Voluntary Surgical Contraception sue USAID, claiming that the standard clause for AID eligibility under the Global Gag Rule violates the constitutional rights of organizations like themselves to support abortion-related activities abroad. The U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. later dismisses the case, ruling that the plaintiffs did not adequately substantiate their claim. A deposition in the case by Duff Gillespie, Director of the USAID Office of Population, clarifies USAID's interpretation of the Global Gag Rule that still guides the implementation today. Pathfinder et al. v. USAID (746 F.Supp. 1992)
Anticipating that its international program would be subjected to the global gag rule, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) sues the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in an attempt to reverse the policy.
The Supreme Court dismisses the case in September 1990, stating that PPFA's claim that the Global Gag Rule violates the First Amendment right to free speech is unwarranted. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), et al. versus U.S. Agency for International Development, et al. (No. 90-1169)
The DKT Memorial Fund launches the first of several legal challenges against the Global Gag Rule. This case is overturned in October 1989 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which ruled that the Global Gag Rule does not violate the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and association of U.S. organizations by restricting their ability to work on abortion-related activities with foreign colleagues.DKT Memorial Fund v. U.S. Agency for International Development (887 F.2d 275, 307-308).
The U.S. government suspends all support for the London-based International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), because IPPF could not, by virtue of its constitution, comply with the global gag rule. At the time, IPPF was receiving roughly 25 percent of its budget from the United States; the defunding thus had serious financial implications.
At the International Conference on Population in Mexico City, the U.S. delegation, headed by James Buckley, announces that the United States will no longer fund foreign, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide, refer, counsel, or advocate for abortion. These restrictions were an executive branch policy in effect until 1993, but never became part of the permanent foreign assistance statute. It became known as the Mexico City Policy, and was later dubbed the "Global Gag Rule" by its opponents.
Later that year, Congress attaches this amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, sponsored by Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), prohibiting the use of U.S. foreign aid funds for abortion.
Roe v. Wade established, based on a constitutional right to privacy, a woman's right to seek an abortion in the United States.