How About Repealing the Global Gag Rule?

One thing that President Barack Obama has not yet done is repeal the “Global Gag Rule” which prohibits NGOs that receive US federal funds from providing or counseling women on abortion. The Global Gag Rule (so-called because it prevents NGOs from even mentioning abortion) was imposed by executive order nearly as soon as former President George W. Bush took office, and people in the international health and women’s rights community expect that President Obama will rescind the order in his first few days in office.

That would be a great start toward a new day in international reproductive health and family planning efforts but there is much more to be done. Official international family planning assistance is pitifully small–only about $450 million was allocated for it in FY 2008.

Today, five former directors of the Population and Reproductive Health Program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) laid out a plan for how the new Obama administration can restore U.S. leadership in global family planning. Making the Case for U.S. International Family Planning Assistance argues for a 100% increase in USAID administered family planning programs to $1.2 billion in FY2010, rising gradually to $1.5 billion in FY 2014.

According to the report an investment of $100 million in Family Planning yields the following health impact:

*Contraceptive users added – 3.6 million

*Unintended pregnancies avoided – 2.1 million

*Abortions prevented – 825,000

*Infant deaths prevented – 70,000

*Maternal lives saved – 4,000

It’s time for President Obama to repeal the Global Gag Rule and show his commitment to global development by supporting international family planning.