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Planned Parenthood Sobered But Not Surprised by New Study on Devastating Impact of Global Gag Rule

New analysis published today by the World Health Organization Bulletin reveals that abortion rates in Africa rose during the period when the global gag rule, sometimes known as the Mexico City Policy, was in effect.   

“This evidence confirms what we have seen on the ground in the countries where we work,” said Latanya Mapp Frett, vice president – Global, Planned Parenthood Federation of America.  “Restricting access to providers of comprehensive reproductive health services does not reduce the need for abortion.  It drives poor women to risk death and injury by seeking unsafe abortion care from unskilled providers.

“The global gag rule prohibits U.S. funding to many of the world’s most experienced family planning organizations, disrupts essential health care for poor and vulnerable communities, and restricts health care providers from counseling patients on their full range of options.  Although proponents of the global gag rule seek to limit abortion, this study shows that in reality the policy leads to more unintended pregnancies, more unsafe abortions, and more women dying from completely preventable causes.

“Planned Parenthood opposed the global gag rule when it was in place and continues to oppose any attempts to reinstate it through new legislation.  We were heartened when, as one of his first acts in office, President Obama rescinded the policy.  As a leader in global health, the U.S. should support international family planning and maternal health programs that help prevent the needless deaths of women in Africa and around the world.”

Authors Eran Bendavid, Patrick Avila, and Grant Miller, all of Stanford University, reviewed demographic and health surveys of 20 African nations and found abortion rates increased in countries most affected by the U.S. foreign aid policy.  The researchers compared women’s likelihood of having had abortions for years when the global gag rule was in place and compared those odds to years when the policy had been lifted.

The gag rule, sometimes referred to as the Mexico City Policy, was first introduced by President Reagan and most recently rescinded by President Obama.  When in place, it prohibited foreign family planning agencies from receiving U.S. funding if they provide, counsel, refer, or lobby for abortion services, even with their own funding.  Though the gag rule is no longer in place, United States government funding for abortion services overseas remains restricted in. by the Helms Amendment, which Planned Parenthood opposes.

Click here for the full article “United States aid policy and induced abortion in sub-Saharan Africa [PDF].

Click here for more information about PPFA’s international program.

Click here for Planned Parenthood’s statement on the Global Democracy Promotion Act, a measure that would permanently repeal the global gag rule.

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Planned Parenthood Media Office, 212-261-4433

Published: 09.29.11

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