ACLU Condemns House Vote Preserving Global Gag Rule on Family Planning Groups Overseas

May 16, 2001 12:00 am

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Wednesday, May 16, 2001

WASHINGTON – In a disappointing vote of 218-210, the House today voted down an amendment that would have overturned the dangerous and anti-democratic measure called the Global Gag Rule that President George W. Bush reinstituted on his first working day in office.

“It is unfortunate that the House has allowed President Bush to export an undemocratic policy he would be prohibited from imposing within the borders of the United States,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office. “The reimposition of this gag rule threatens desperately needed family planning services, maternal health care and HIV/AIDS prevention services by denying U.S. dollars to organizations that exercise their right to free speech.”

“Where is the compassion in denying American aid to vital public health services overseas?” Murphy asked.

The global gag rule denies crucial U.S. aid money to foreign nongovernmental organizations that use their own money to advocate for or against legal abortion, to perform legal abortions in their own countries, or to counsel and refer women for abortions. This provision punishes organizations for engaging in legal activities that would be protected by the First Amendment if carried out in the United States.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA, successfully introduced the amendment in the House International Relations Committee last week. The amendment would have ensured that foreign nongovernmental organizations cannot be denied funding on the basis of the medical services they provide with their own money, including counseling and referral for abortion.

“The Lee Amendment embodied a fundamental principle of American medical ethics and health practices; that health care providers must be free to supply patients with the comprehensive information they need to make appropriate decisions about their own care,” said Catherine Weiss, Director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project.

The vote occurred during debate on the House floor on the State Department Authorization Bill.

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