WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey is fighting back for, she said, vulnerable women after President Donald J. Trump moved to reinstate the Global Gag Rule.
The rule, aka the Mexico City Policy, forbids any overseas organization that receives U.S aid from mentioning abortion services, much less provide them, even if the procedure is legal in their county.
President Ronald Reagan established the gag rule in 1984. It was tossed out by President Bill Clinton, put back on the books by President George W. Bush in 2001, and rescinded in 2009 by President Barack Obama.
According to a report in The New York Times, Trump and vice president Mike Pence had both stated their opposition to abortion during the campaign and the former promised to make the executive order one of his first acts in office.
Pro-choice groups see the reinstatement as a giant step backwards, but anti-abortion organizations were hailing its return, saying that polls show most Americans do not support the use of tax dollars for abortion services, according to multiple media reports.
According to nbcnews.com, that the language of the gag rule has been expanded to include "global health assistance" offered by all agencies. This is broader, nbcnews.com's report said, that the original rule which only covered family planning and abortion and not all "health assistance."
Abc.com quoted Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Ericka Sackin as saying she thought the rule now applied to organizations working only on HIV/AIDS.
Lowey, D-Rockland/Westchester, the ranking member of the House’s the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, reacted to Trump’s move by introducing the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act.
It would, she said, “permanently repeal the ill-conceived, anti-woman” policy.
“President Trump said he would put ‘America First’ in his inaugural address. He can’t do that by marginalizing women around the world,” said Lowey.
Calling the rule “dangerous” and “arbitrary,” Lowey said it has not decreased the abortion rate or the number of unwanted pregnancies during the time Reagan was in office.
It limits access to family planning services and will, the congresswoman claimed, “dramatically erode progress on maternal and child health.”
The policy will also “weaken the effectiveness of our foreign assistance by making ineligible some of the most capable and effective international partners,” Lowey said.
Lowey said the rule contradicts one of the country’s founding principles by silencing “freedom of speech.”
It also “interferes with the doctor-patient relationship, and weakens the effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance,” she added.
When last in place, it cut off access to health care providers, some of whom were the only ones “serving vulnerable populations in remote regions.”
The HER Act, which will be introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, would, Lowey said:
- Ensure that eligible foreign NGOs can continue to operate U.S.-supported health programs abroad, particularly those that provide legal health services to women -- including counseling, referral, and legal abortion services -- with their own, non-U.S. funds.
- Guarantee that foreign NGOs will not be forced to sacrifice their right to free speech in order to participate in U.S.-supported programs abroad.
- Help expand access to health programs for women around the world to improve health and development outcomes for entire families, communities, and developing countries.
“Women around the world deserve the ability to make healthy choices for themselves and their families,” said Lowey. “Congress should put aside politics and support full and consistent access to family planning and reproductive health services by supporting the Global HER Act.”