Advisers to President-elect Barack Obama are indicating that “Obama will reverse U.S. family planning and AIDS prevention strategies that have long linked global funding to anti-abortion and abstinence education.”
The Obama reversal is a return to an approach that is based on solid evidence and public health rather than ideology, and a recognition of needs on the ground rather than the need to please domestic political constituencies.
On January 21 2001, President Bush reinstated the Mexico City Policy (the global gag rule), requiring NGOs receiving federal funding to refrain from using their own money to perform or promote abortion services in other countries.
While the policy was “purportedly designed to reduce abortion by limiting a woman’s access to abortion services, and to ensure that U.S. funding for family planning services overseas is completely separate from abortion activities,” in actuality the rule has denied “many NGOs access to in-kind donations of the very contraceptives that can prevent recourse to abortions“:
- Desperately needed USAID-supplied contraceptives are no longer being shipped to 16 developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
- The leading providers of family planning in 13 other developing nations are also no longer receiving USAID contraceptives.
- By 2002, the Global Gag Rule had resulted in the loss of USAID-donated contraceptives including condoms (purchased with family planning funds), to NGOs in 29 countries
Placing ideology ahead of science or reason, Bush fundamentally misunderstood the root of the problem. The rise of HIV infections in girls is attributed not to women’s individual choices and behavior, but to gender inequalities and sexual violence, including the widespread practice and acceptance of child marriage of young girls to older men, forced marriage and polygamy, male promiscuity, “marital rape, domestic violence, wife inheritance, widow cleansing, and female genital mutilation.”
Obama seems to understand a reality that Bush chose to ignore, if only selectively, for the Bush administration admits to the effectiveness of condoms domestically but limits their provision in countries battling HIV/AIDS epidemics. Just today, for instance, the Bush FDA acknowledged in a new rule amending the classification regulation for condoms:
That evidence supports the conclusions that correct and consistent use of latex condoms reduces the risk of transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STIs such as gonorrhea that are sexually transmitted solely by contact with the head of the penis (via genital fluids).