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Ending the Global Gag Rule Permanently

Last week, MADRE joined hundreds of organizations from the US and around the world in calling on Representative Nita Lowey and Senator Patrick Leahy to take action to prohibit the future imposition of the dangerous Global Gag Rule on health and family planning providers working overseas.

Read the full letter (pdf) addressed to Representative Nita Lowey, Chair of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs in the House Committee on Appropriations.

Read the full letter (pdf) addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Subcommittee on Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

On behalf of our organizations and our constituencies in the United States and around the world, we thank you for your commitment to achieving universal access to voluntary family planning and other reproductive health services and care. Your tireless work to ensure that American foreign policy recognizes the unique needs of women and girls and to guarantee access to desperately needed reproductive health care is key to the progress that has been achieved. We are proud to stand with you now, as we have during the past two decades in debate after debate over the basic rights of women in the poorest parts of the world.

We are writing today to ask for your continued leadership by including language in the FY 2011 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations bill that would protect the free speech of organizations and enhance the provision of family planning and other reproductive health services by prohibiting the imposition of the dangerous Global Gag Rule on health and family planning providers working overseas.

You are well aware about the harmful effects of the Global Gag Rule on family planning providers and, more importantly, the women who rely on these services. Now is the time to enact legislation that makes clear that no foreign health care provider can be disqualified from U.S. assistance simply because it provides a health care service with its own private funds that is legal both within its own country and here in the United States, or because it engages in political debate about abortion policy within its own country. "The Global Democracy Promotion Act", which you just reintroduced, does just that. We encourage you to include it in the appropriations bill this year.

We were deeply gratified when President Obama lifted the policy within a week of assuming office and we are confident that his action is benefiting thousands of women. However, the political ping-pong match of the policy being in effect, then not, then again, then not again and so on, creates even more burden on providers who have to juggle and change their programs to accommodate the political winds, rather than best public health practice. In some ways, it creates an inefficient use of resources – which is misguided. Indeed, reports from the field suggest there is now reluctance on the part of some U.S.-funded organizations to work with other family planning service providers who were unable to be funded during the Bush administration as a result of the Gag Rule. This reluctance is due to uncertainty as to whether those organizations will be able to continue to participate in a project over its full five-year period or will be forced to drop off the team if the Gag Rule were to be reinstated under a new administration. The concern about partnering with these affected groups will almost certainly intensify as the next election cycle approaches.

For far too long, the health and rights of women and girls in the developing world have been treated by American policymakers as little more than a tool in a domestic political struggle. We look forward to working with you and your staff in the coming weeks and months to support this provision and to ensure its enactment into law. Thank you again for your long record of leadership on this critical issue.