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Esther J. Cepeda Headshot

Another Victory: Obama Rescinds the Mexico City Policy, AKA the Global Gag Rule

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I was never what you'd call a rabid G. Dubya Bush-hater, but I do remember the day I first went "oh crap, we're all screwed!"

That day was January 22, 2001, G.W.'s first full day in office, when he reinstated the Mexico City Policy - otherwise known as the global gag rule - which effectively mandated that no U.S. family planning assistance could be provided to foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that use funding from any other source to perform abortions in cases other than a threat to the woman's life, rape or incest. That also went for NGOs that provided counseling and referral for abortion; or lobbied to make abortion legal or more available in their country.

That day happened thirty-eight days before I "celebrated" the one-year anniversary of my daughter Wren's birth - and subsequent death - from a major birth defect. I could have elected to abort this unfortunate incident away when I got the diagnosis but I shook the dice; which is just another way of saying hey, I'm not "pro-abortion" but I'm sure grateful to have had the actual choice to make.

Friday I was thrilled that women in Mexico and many other countries around the world will now have a better chance at making that choice, too.

On his third day in office, President Obama sent a quiet, late-Friday afternoon e-mail through his Press Office announcing he revoked the so-called "Mexico City Policy:"

"It is clear that the provisions of the Mexico City Policy are unnecessarily broad and unwarranted under current law, and for the past eight years, they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries. For these reasons, it is right for us to rescind this policy and restore critical efforts to protect and empower women and promote global economic development.

"For too long, international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back and forth debate that has served only to divide us. I have no desire to continue this stale and fruitless debate.

"It is time that we end the politicization of this issue. In the coming weeks, my Administration will initiate a fresh conversation on family planning, working to find areas of common ground to best meet the needs of women and families at home and around the world.

"I have directed my staff to reach out to those on all sides of this issue to achieve the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies. They will also work to promote safe motherhood, reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and increase educational and economic opportunities for women and girls.

"In addition, I look forward to working with Congress to restore U.S. financial support for the U.N. Population Fund. By resuming funding to UNFPA, the U.S. will be joining 180 other donor nations working collaboratively to reduce poverty, improve the health of women and children, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide family planning assistance to women in 154 countries," said President Obama.

 

I was too young to reproduce in August 1984 when President Reagan directed the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to expand their limitations to withhold USAID funds from NGOs that provided advice, counseling, or information regarding abortion, and information on lobbying a foreign government to legalize or make abortion available. 

When it was rescinded by President Clinton in 1993 I was barely aware of how important his reversing of The Mexico City Policy was, but Dubya's first-day move hit me hard. Right in the uterus, in fact.

For some it's so easy to hate the poverty-stricken, so easy to dismiss them as dirty and uneducated - a scourge which shouldn't be reproducing anyway; so easy to damn them for getting themselves pregnant then damn them for searching out alternatives.

But it's not so easy to be a young, poor and many times illiterate woman in the slums of the Dominican Republic or Mexico City taking matters into their own hands by throwing themselves down staircases or slugging down homemade concoctions of soap, tea, and extra-strength aspirin to poison themselves into an abortion.

Those sorts of very common situations tend to lead to the death of an unborn fetus, anyway, albeit inside the body of a dead mother - not exactly within the spirit of the policy if you ask me.

Obama promises to open up a "fresh conversation" on family planning... it will be ugly, but hopefully, it can lead to less dead babies - and less dead mommies - than during the past eight years.

Esther J. Cepeda is counting down to the anniversary of her "choice" and writes on www.600words.com