New York, NY; January 24, 2009—AJWS has applauded President Barack Obama for lifting the global gag rule, a ban on U.S. funding for family planning services provided by overseas NGOs offering abortion services or counseling as part of their programs.
“President Obama’s decision to roll back the global gag rule is a victory for all who believe that the only way to stop the spread of HIV and reduce rates of maternal mortality is to set aside ideology and politics in order to provide NGOs on the frontlines with the resources they need to continue their important work,” said Ruth W. Messinger, president of AJWS. “With this decision, it is clear that President Obama understands what is at stake.”
The ban, known as the global gag rule because it extended to organizations that advocated for the lifting of abortion restrictions, was originally enacted by President Ronald Reagan and reinstated by President George W. Bush. It forced many of the most effective NGOs to either scale back their work or shut down because they offered family planning services as part of an integrated package that included abortion, abortion-rights advocacy and/or abortion counseling. Non-abortion-related family planning services included contraception, health and sexual health education, maternal health and well-baby care, and prevention and related care services for people with HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Even though abortions performed by these organizations were funded exclusively by private sources, these NGOs were no longer eligible for U.S. assistance.
By beginning to fund a wide range of family planning providers again, the U.S. can help provide women with contraceptive supplies and reproductive healthcare that will reduce the need and number of unsafe abortions and decrease rates of maternal mortality. Messinger believes that Obama’s move should be considered the first step in a shift towards evidence-based policy in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and the reduction of maternal mortality.
“The new administration is off to a great start, but more needs to be done,” Messinger said. “We look forward to continued progress by the administration in shaping HIV/AIDS and family planning policy that empowers our partners in the field to implement programs reflecting the unique realities in their countries and their communities.
“Ultimately, an approach that enables true partnership with NGOs and community leaders in the developing world will ensure a much better return on our government’s significant investment in fighting the global HIV and AIDS pandemic and improving lives of women around the world.”
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