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Kacie Rahm

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Don’t Gag Me
By Kacie Rahm   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Posted: Wednesday, March 11, 2009

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For Comm 235

On January 23, 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order reversing the “global gag rule.” (Tapper).  Also known as the “Mexico City Policy,” this United States policy has been introduced, overturned, and reinstated throughout the last 15 years. In this paper, I will explain the reason this oppressive policy should stay out of our government, even past the Obama administration. First, I will explain the history and terms of the “global gag.” Next, I will explain how the policy negatively affects family planning worldwide. Finally, I will refute the argument that the policy is simply taking a moral stance against abortion. The “global gag rule” was named in such a way because of its ability to silence the rights and freedoms of people all over the globe, a metaphorical “gag.” There is nothing positive or useful about the policy, and the fact that it was ever in effect is an embarrassment to the United States., even under it’s less-known alias, the “Mexico City Policy.”
                        The Religious Tolerance abortion policy explains: “In 1984, during the United Nations International Conference on Population in Mexico City, President Reagan announced a ban on U.S. government financial support for certain U.S. and foreign family planning agencies, those that were involved in any way with the provision of abortion in foreign countries.” (Robinson). This meant that if a family planning agency performed, offered information about, or even announced the option of abortion, the U.S. cut all funding to these programs. When Bill Clinton came into office, the policy was overturned in 1993, and then reinstated during the Bush Administration in 2001. (Tapper). Addressing this policy seems to be a priority to Presidents from both the Democratic and Republican Parties. George W. Bush reinstated the policy on his first day in office, and Barack Obama reversed the policy on his 4th day in office. Such a clear opposition proves that just because we aren’t tolerating the injustice right now, does not mean that it could not come into effect later on. This is bad news for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, who maintain their pro-choice stance on abortion despite the lack of government support. (Robinson). Numerous other family planning agencies also refused to change their services, and suffered a loss of funding. This leaves many wondering: what is the purpose of this policy?
            The fact is that there is no clear purpose to this policy, and the effects that are incurred because of this policy are severe and dangerous.  An executive summary released by the Center for Reproductive Rights states that:  “Every year, twenty million—mostly poor—women around the world are driven to unsafe abortion. More than 95% of these abortions occur in low-income countries. And every year, complications from these procedures claim the lives of some 70,000 women. Untold millions more suffer serious injuries and permanent disabilities.” (Breaking). This study focused its information on interviews and data in Ethiopia, Peru, Uganda and Kenya, which are only four of nearly 60 countries receiving aid from the U.S. government. In countries where birth control information is limited and conditions are not favorable for raising children, the “global gag” is causing overpopulation and unsafe abortions. In Ethiopia, for example, one fifth of all hospital admissions among women of reproductive age are due to unsafe abortions. The U.S. is turning a blind eye to a health crisis when the policy is in effect. The government is denying information and resources to the people who need it most. So what is the real purpose of the “Mexico City Policy?” According to advocates, the U.S. government is taking a moral stand against abortion.
            The ethical stand against abortion is complete hypocrisy. If the government wants to morally stand against abortions, they need to apply it in our own country.  Abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973. (Robinson). Rather than make dramatic moves to make abortion illegal, the government is going behind the citizen’s backs and cutting funding to the institutions that offer this service. This is not a moral stand; this is a cowardly approach to support the agenda of certain government leaders. It is also shaky as to how “ethical” this policy can truly be. The banning of information is a form of censorship similar to banning books. If abortions are to remain legal, then women should have the right to be educated about them, and family planning agencies should have the right to educate. Most people would agree that there is a severe misinterpretation of the word “moral” if it is to include the promotion of unsafe abortions and overpopulation in underdeveloped countries. The death of 70,000 women is not ethical. While it is arguable that abortion is an immoral procedure, I am not trying to argue for or against it. I am trying to demonstrate that the policy is advocated for by a hypocritical belief that the “global gag” is somehow ethical. The lives of women killed by unsafe abortions are just as precious as the lives of their unborn children.
            The issue of abortion will be debated for many years to come. There will never be a time when every person in the U.S. will agree in the “pro-life vs. pro-choice” battle. However, the government and the citizens of the United States have the power to make laws and vote for abortions to be legal or illegal. The citizens do not have the chance to vote for or against the “Mexico City Policy.” This government order has been in and out of effect since 1984 without much publicity or awareness to the people in this country.  It was my intention to raise awareness in this paper, and show that we must stop this from happening again. First, I explained the terms of the rule as well as its history. Second, I explained the severe negative effects that the policy has caused worldwide. Last, I refuted the supposed moral fiber the policy represents. President Obama has withdrawn this policy from the U.S. government; but history has shown us that the “global gag” has the potential to revoke women’s reproductive rights yet again.

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