Another House Committee To Consider Global Gag Rule, Defunding U.N. Programs To Improve Women’s Health

Earlier this month, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed an amendment that would restore and expand the so-called global gag rule, a provision prohibiting foreign organizations receiving U.S. development assistance from using their own funds to perform abortions or provide women with information and referrals for the procedure. The rule, which unlike past variations does not even make exceptions for HIV/AIDS programs, was approved in a vote of 25-17.

Now, the measure is popping up elsewhere in the House. The Hill is reporting that the House Appropriations Committee will hold a mark-up today on a draft of the 2012 State Department spending bill that also includes the policy as well as other restrictions that would undermine women’s health:

The bill also contains a number of riders directed at the practice of abortion. It reinstates the so-called Mexico City Policy, which opponents call the “global gag rule,” that prohibits U.S. assistance to foreign nongovernmental organizations that “promote” or perform abortion.

The bill also prohibits funding for the U.N. Population Fund, as well as needle-exchange programs.

“It is unacceptable that the majority proposes to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, which prohibits recipients of U.S. health assistance from providing the most truthful and comprehensive healthcare possible to women in need,” subcommittee ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said in reaction.

Conservatives will argue that they are protecting tax payer dollars from being spent on abortion, but in reality, the gag rule and any additional cuts to programs that seek to improve women’s reproductive health would deny NGOs access to the very contraceptives that can help prevent the need for abortions in the first place and undermine efforts to fight the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

Ultimately, women’s lives are put at risk. As CAP’s Peter Juul pointed out in a recent column, women with limited options are “forced to seek out abortion providers that may lack necessary medical skills or an environment that conforms to minimal medical standards. These unsafe abortions constitute 48 percent of all abortions, leading to the hospitalization of 5 million women due to complications and the deaths of 47,000 more every year.