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President Obama Eliminates Major Obstacle to Women's Health

Posted on: Friday, January 23, 2009

Keywords: Women's Health

Today, with President Obama's signature of an executive order to repeal the Mexico City Policy, also known as the Global Gag Rule, a major global barrier to access to crucial women's health services is to be removed.  MADRE applauds President Obama's decision to end the controversial and harmful policy, which has jeopardized the health of women worldwide.  

Under the Global Gag Rule, no US funds were to be directed to any foreign healthcare organization that provides abortion services or advocates for the legalization of abortion, even if those activities are funded by non-US money.

The Global Gag Rule, first imposed by President Reagan, was undone by President Clinton before being reinstituted by President Bush.  MADRE recalls that whenever the Gag Rule has been in force, it has endangered the lives of women and has undermined reproductive health services worldwide.

Rhonda Copelon, member of the MADRE Network of Experts, said today, "The Global Gag Rule is an example of a policy that is inconsistent with values that we hold to be fundamental in the United States:  the right to advocate for legal change and the right to abortion recognized by Roe v. Wade 36 years ago. It is thus precisely the kind of international policy that President Obama has promised to eliminate."

More than 95% of abortions in Africa and Latin America are performed under unsafe circumstances.  The criminalization of abortion remains one of the leading causes of pregnancy-related death around the world, taking the lives nearly 70,000 women per year.

Available for comment:

Rhonda Copelon is an expert in reproductive rights and health as a result of work in the US and in the international arena as a professor of law and the co-director of the International Women's Human Rights Law Clinic at the City University of New York Law School and, previously, as a staff lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights.  She has co-authored a legal text and published numerous in the field of reproductive and sexual rights and international women's human rights.

Yifat Susskind, MADRE's Communications Director, worked for several years as part of a joint Israeli-Palestinian human rights organization in Jerusalem before joining MADRE. She has written extensively on US foreign policy and women's human rights. Her critical analysis has appeared in online and print publications such as, Foreign Policy in Focus, and The W Effect: Bush's War on Women, published by the Feminist Press in 2004. Ms. Susskind has been featured as a commentator on CNN, National Public Radio, and BBC Radio.

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