Blogging for Choice: A bitch’s wish list

January 22nd, 2009 11:59 pm by Kelly Garbato

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Oh, yays! Today marks the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade – and it’s also the fourth annual Blog for Choice Day!

Over at easyVegan.info, I spent quite a bit of time examining reproductive rights as it relates to animal advocacy, but I fear I only scratched the surface. Volumes can be – have been! – written about the exploitation of women’s and non-human animals’ sexuality separately; methinks we’d need an entire encyclopedia set to fully examine the parallels and intersections between the two together.

For example, I didn’t even touch upon Nestle’s exploitation of new mothers in impoverished nations by convincing them that unaffordable, dairy-based formula is better for their babies than mother’s milk; dairy-based formula, of course, necessarily involves the exploitation of female cows.

Anyhow, this year’s topic is “What is your top pro-choice hope for President Obama and/or the new Congress?” Easy, peasy as (vegan) pie!

I have so many hopes, that it’s hard to choose just one. If forced, I’d have to get vague: Be progressive in words and actions.

But that doesn’t make for a very interesting post, so instead I’ll name my most immediate pro-choice hope for Obama: Repeal the Global Gag Rule. While this is only one of many pro-choice hopes I have for the Obama administration, I would love for it to be the first he enacts – because in so doing, he’ll send a strong, clear, pro-choice message, not just to the nation, but to the world.

Also known as The Mexico City Policy, the Global Gag Rule is a policy which

requires non-governmental organizations to “agree as a condition of their receipt of [U.S.] federal funds” that they will “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations”. The policy has exceptions for abortions done in response to rape, incest, or life-threatening conditions.

Referrals to abortion providers – indeed, even broaching the subject of abortion – qualifies as “actively promot[ing] abortion.”

Named for the venue of the United Nations International Conference on Population where it was announced, the Mexico City Policy was instituted by U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1984. […]

After the Mexico City Policy’s institution, organizations were required to meet its specified conditions in order to be eligible for federal funding from the United States, and, as a result, several international abortion agencies no longer received a portion of their funds from this source. The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) did not alter its operation and lost more than 20% of its total funding. Other family planning organizations, such as the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia and the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia, likewise did not make the changes required by the Mexico City Policy and had their fundings cut. NGOs in Romania and Colombia adapted to the new U.S. guidelines and continued to qualify for federal funding.

President Bill Clinton rescinded the Mexico City Policy on January 22, 1993. He referred to the policy as being “excessively broad” and stated that it had “undermined efforts to promote safe and efficacious family planning programs in foreign nations”. On January 22, 2001, President George W. Bush reinstated the policy by executive order, stating, “It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortion, either here or abroad. It is therefore my belief that the Mexico City Policy should be restored”. In September 2007, Barbara Boxer, a Senator from California, created an amendment designed to lift the funding conditions put in place by the Mexico City Policy. It passed by a vote of 53-41. President Bush had said he will veto any legislation which would eliminate the Mexico City Policy.

In addition to curbing free speech in other nations, the Global Gag Rule forces non-profits, some of which are already operating with tight budgets in impoverished nations, to choose between offering patients comprehensive medical services and receiving much-needed funding. Furthermore, while the Gag Rule ostensibly seeks to reduce the number of abortions in other nations, denying family planning organizations funding actually has the opposite effect. The most effective way to reduce the need for abortion is to reduce the number of unplanned/unwanted pregnancies. A prohibition on talking about abortion won’t do anything to prevent unplanned pregnancies; comprehensive sex ed and access to contraception will. But a cut in U.S. funding will negatively impact an organization’s ability to provide such services.

The Global Gag Rule, then, is yet another instance of anti-choicers attempting to control women and force their religion on others. In this case, the women in question aren’t even citizens of this “Judeo-Christian” nation – so this play at a de facto theocracy is particularly appalling. By taking advantage of these organizations – and the disadvantaged populations they serve – the anti-choicers behind the Global Gag Rule are belying their real “respect for life.” (As in, not very respectful….or respectful only inasmuch as they’re able to exert control over said lives.)

Bill Clinton rescinded the policy shortly after taking office in 1993. In response, Bush II reinstated the policy exactly eight years later. At the time of this writing, President Obama only has a few hours to continue the tradition and rescind the Global Gag Rule at the eight-year mark (Clinton and Bush both took action on January 22). If he doesn’t reverse this misguided, exploitative, misogynistic policy today, it’s my pro-choice hope that he rescinds it shortly – the sooner, the better.

Real women are suffering – and dying. President Obama must send a message that he supports a woman’s right to choose – whether she chooses to use contraception, voluntarily sterilize herself, abort a pregnancy, or carry one to term – and repealing such a heinous policy, early in his term, will demonstrate to the world that he rejects Bush’s anti-woman worldview.

As for the long term – well, NOW’s Feminist Wish List is a good enough place to start!

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One Response to “Blogging for Choice: A bitch’s wish list”

  1. Hoping for a change in how our government views the sex class. » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] Obama rescinded the Global Gag Rule yesterday. Wishes really do come true! Well, kinda sorta. Being the cynical bitch I am, Obama’s timing and statement threw up all […]

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