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“An Emboldened Anti-Choice Movement”: Republican Family Values Put Women’s Lives In Danger Worldwide

Last week, a committee in the US House of Representatives approved a spending bill that would slash funding for international family planning and reimpose a harmful policy that reduces contraceptive access and tramples on the rights of healthcare providers.

On Monday, the supreme court ruled that some US employers could deny employees access to birth control coverage if they claim a religious objection to contraception.

Is it just me, or do we seem to be in retreat? This latest disregard for women – in the US and overseas – is not unexpected, but it is certainly disappointing. In many ways, we have been fighting the same battle for the past 30 years. But the battle lines have shifted and, frequently, we have to struggle to retain hard-won ground.

When I started working on this issue in the early 80s, there was true, bipartisan support for family planning. Some of the most sincere anti-abortion Republicans realised that the consistent, commonsense public policy position for them to take would be to support overseas family planning funding. Better access to contraception would reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions, especially unsafe abortions.

The global gag rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, was one of the first instances of the domestic anti-choice agenda interfering with the health and lives of women in developing countries. Introduced 30 years ago, during the Reagan administration, the policy bars foreign organisations that receive US family planning assistance from using their own private, non-US government funds to provide information, referrals, or services for legal abortion, or to advocate for the legalisation of abortion in their own countries.

Since it was introduced, the gag rule has been subject to the vagaries of US politics – imposed or kept in place by Republican presidents, and repealed by Democrat leaders. Though it was rescinded by President Obama on taking office in 2009, Republicans in the House have tried every year since to reinstate it.

Their efforts are testament to a rightward shift in US politics, including an emboldened anti-choice movement that has continued to gain political power. The middle has shrunk, the partisan divide has grown, and the Republicans being elected to Congress now are more extreme and bent on undermining women’s health and rights. Under the guise of “protecting the unborn”, the misguided policies they espouse threaten the health and lives of millions of women and families.

The US’s $610m contribution to international family planning and reproductive health in fiscal year 2014 helped 31 million women and couples receive contraceptive services and supplies. It prevented 7 million unintended pregnancies and 3 million abortions (2 million of them unsafe), and saved the lives of 13,000 women. In addition, 60,000 fewer children lost their mothers.

The fact is that family planning saves women’s lives. But in Washington these days, the facts do not matter. Last week Republicans on the House spending committee imposed a completely unnecessary cap on international family planning funding.

The House committee bill proposes cutting international family planning funding by $149m, almost 25% from current levels. Using analysis from the Guttmacher Institute, this would result in more than 7.7 million fewer couples using contraception, more than 1.6 million additional unintended pregnancies, and 745,000 more abortions. Almost 3,000 more women would die in pregnancy or childbirth, and 13,400 more children would lose their mothers. So much for family values.

We have been fortunate in that during the past few years, Republican attacks in the House have been blocked by Senate family planning champions, where, for now at least, Democrats retain control. This has essentially resulted in maintenance of the status quo on family planning policy and on funding. The Senate version of this year’s spending bill counters the House by including $644m for international family planning, and a permanent, legislative repeal of the global gag rule.

But this uneasy stalemate could change, depending on the outcomes in key races in November. If Republicans take control of the Senate, the truce will be broken and battle lines redrawn. The drastic cuts the House committee approved last week could be seriously considered in an omnibus spending bill, and an offensive could be mounted by opponents to attempt to force the gag rule on a pro-choice president.

The health of women around the world is far too important to continue to be thrust on to the frontline of US domestic culture wars.

 

By: Craig Lasher, Director of US Government Relations at Population Action International; The Guardian, July 17, 2014

July 19, 2014 Posted by | Family Values, Republicans, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Global Gag Rule”: A Romney-Ryan Administration Would Be A World Of Harm For Women

If Mitt Romney and his vice-presidential running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, were to win next month’s election, the harm to women’s reproductive rights would extend far beyond the borders of the United States.

In this country, they would support the recriminalization of abortion with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and they would limit access to contraception and other services. But they have also promised to promote policies abroad that would affect millions of women in the world’s poorest countries, where lack of access to contraception, prenatal care and competent help at childbirth often results in serious illness and thousands of deaths yearly. And the wreckage would begin on Day 1 of a Romney administration.

Mr. Romney has pledged that, on his first day in the White House, he would reinstate the “global gag rule,” the odious restriction that has been used to deny federal money for family-planning work abroad to any organization that provided information, advice, referrals or services for legal abortion or supported the legalization of abortion, even using its own money.

Merely talking about abortion could cost groups not only federal money, but also useful technical support and American-donated supplies of contraceptives, including condoms for distribution in the communities they serve.

The gag rule, also known as the “Mexico City policy,” was imposed by the last three Republican presidents, beginning with Ronald Reagan in 1984. It was rescinded by President Bill Clinton in 1993, then reinstated by President George W. Bush in 2001. President Obama, fulfilling a campaign pledge, signed an executive order lifting the global gag rule shortly after taking office in 2009.

The gag rule did nothing to prevent use of government financing for abortions because that was already illegal under federal law. But it badly hampered the work of family-planning groups overseas, forcing clinic closures, reduced services and fee increases. It also violated principles of informed consent by requiring health care providers to withhold medical information from female patients. And, by stifling political debate on abortion-related issues and violating free speech principles, the gag rule badly undermined America’s credibility as it tries to promote democracy abroad.

Republican opponents of family planning and women’s reproductive autonomy in Congress have been trying to reinstate the gag rule by legislation. If elected, Mr. Romney has said he would do so with a stroke of the pen.

Mr. Romney also vows to renew another of George W. Bush’s shameful policies (which was ended by President Obama), which blocked the United States from contributing to the United Nations Population Fund. That fund supports programs in some 150 countries to improve poor women’s reproductive health, reduce infant mortality, end the sexual trafficking of women and prevent the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Like Mr. Bush, Mr. Romney has embraced the bogus charge that the Population Fund supports coerced abortions in China, ignoring a State Department investigation that found no evidence for that claim. In fact, the fund has helped promote a voluntary approach to family planning.

The annual federal contribution to the fund is now down to $35 million, compared with $55 million in fiscal years 2010 and 2011; overall support for international family planning and reproductive health programs stands at $610 million — far short of the need. Even so, this amount of money pays for contraceptive services and supplies that reach more than 31 million women and couples, averting 9.4 million unintended pregnancies, 4 million abortions (three-quarters of them unsafe) and 22,000 maternal deaths annually, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

House Republicans want to cut the nation’s investment in international family planning severely. Mr. Romney’s record of bending to suit the most extreme elements of the Republican Party suggests that he may well go along on this critical issue as well.

By: Editorial Board, The New York Times, October 19, 2012

October 21, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Moderate This”: Mitt Romney Is Talking Out Of Both Sides Of His Mouth

So Moderate Mitt Romney told the editorial board of the Des Moines Register yesterday that he had no interest in promoting anti-abortion legislation as president:

“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” the GOP presidential candidate told The Des Moines Register’s editorial board during a meeting today before his campaign rally at a Van Meter farm.

But by executive order, not by legislation, he would reinstate the so-called Mexico City policy that bans U.S. foreign aid dollars from being used to do abortions, he said.

But then there’s this, via HuffPost’s Elise Foley:

The Romney campaign walked back the remark within two hours of the Register posting its story. Spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the National Review Online‘s Katrina Trinko that Romney “would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.”

And speaking of National Review Online, that’s who published Romney’s definitive statement on abortion policy during the Republican primary battle, when Romney was justifying his refusal to sign a very radical pledge presented by the Susan B. Anthony List:

I am pro-life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

I support the reversal of Roe v. Wade, because it is bad law and bad medicine. Roe was a misguided ruling that was a result of a small group of activist federal judges legislating from the bench.

I support the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. And as president, I will support efforts to prohibit federal funding for any organization like Planned Parenthood, which primarily performs abortions or offers abortion-related services.

I will reinstate the Mexico City Policy to ensure that nongovernmental organizations that receive funding from America refrain from performing or promoting abortion services, as a method of family planning, in other countries. This includes ending American funding for any United Nations or other foreign assistance program that promotes or performs abortions on women around the world.

I will advocate for and support a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.

And perhaps most importantly, I will only appoint judges who adhere to the Constitution and the laws as they are written, not as they want them to be written.

So last year, in a carefully considered and drafted statement, Romney was all for new legislation to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and promised to “advocate and support” federal “fetal pain” legislation along the lines of bills being promoted by anti-choice legislators from sea to shining sea. He basically agreed to do anything within the president’s power to help The Cause, with the exception of administering litmus tests to a host of his appointees, which is what the SBA List was asking him to do. To some extent, his comments to the Register simply reflected the limitations of the executive branch on this particular subject, which has been a source of great frustration to anti-choicers over the years.

But Moderate Mitt should not be able to get away with bland reassurances on this issue–with his own campaign repudiating him almost on the spot–without dealing with specific pledges he made during this very campaign. Is he–on behalf of himself and his loyal running-mate, Paul Ryan, who up until now has been universally considered a leader in the anti-choice cause–specifically retracting promises to promote a funding ban on Planned Parenthood and federal legislation flatly banning abortions prior to some arbitrary point in the second trimester of pregnancy?

It would be good to know if Moderate Mitt is talking out of both sides of his mouth.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 10, 2012

October 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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