President Bush Reinstates the Gag Rule

Introduction:

The United States provides about 43 percent of the money used to support international population assistance, programs that include family planning, maternal and child care, and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. One of the first actions of the Bush administration in 2001 was to reinstate the Mexico City policy, which denies USAID funds to any foreign family planning or health organizations that provide abortion.

In underdeveloped countries abortion is a serious public health issue: about 70,000 women die each year as a result of unsafe abortions. The Mexico City policy means that countries where abortion is permitted more liberally than the US would like, countries like India, Bangladesh, South Africa, Russia, and many others, must close their abortion services or lose USAID funding. Women in those countries can still get an abortion but must use non-USAID supported services, which means second rate medical care at best and at worst, unsafe abortions. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has written that the Mexico City policy "violates basic medical ethics by jeopardizing a health care provider's ability to recommend appropriate medical care."

We spoke with Barbara Crane about U.S. family planning assistance overseas and the consequences of the Mexico City policy on women's health.

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