|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
JANUARY 16, 2004
Liz Rose, 202-478-6119
Nadia Khatchadourian, 202-478-6187
Three Years is Enough -- Time to Remove Global Gag Rule; New FreeChoiceSavesLives.org Campaign to Protect Women's Health
WASHINGTON - January 16 - Three years after the imposition of the Global Gag Rule -- a policy that threatens women's health around the world -- International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR) is taking the fight for sexual and reproductive health and freedom to the next level with a new grassroots campaign to improve the lives and health of women worldwide. IPPF/WHR, a leading international women's organization, is launching the FreeChoiceSavesLives.org Campaign to raise awareness about the global debate over reproductive health and increase public opposition to the Global Gag Rule.
"The Global Gag Rule stands between the world's poorest women and one of the most important elements of their development and well-being: reproductive health services," said Dr. Carmen Barroso, regional director of IPPF/WHR. "We need to intensify the public's outcry over the harmful effects of this policy."
The launch of the FreeChoiceSavesLives.org Campaign on January 22nd coincides with the third anniversary of the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule by President George W. Bush, his first official act as President. The Global Gag Rule forces foreign organizations to choose between vital U.S. government (USAID) funding and their responsibility to provide the full range of reproductive health services to the world's poorest women. It requires aid recipients to withhold information about reproductive health options and even prohibits foreign non- governmental organizations from lobbying their own governments on abortion issues, even if they use other sources of funding for these activities. Ironically, although the Bush Administration claims that the Global Gag Rule is aimed at reducing abortions overseas, it is having the opposite effect: by failing to provide sufficient contraceptive services, the Gag Rule puts more women at risk of unplanned pregnancies and hence abortions, as well as maternal and child deaths, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. And because the Gag Rule limits access to safe abortions even in countries where abortion is legal, it increases women's risk of unsafe abortions, endangering women's lives. Furthermore, by gagging recipients of U.S. funding on the issue of abortion, the Global Gag Rule violates the right to free speech, one of the United States' most sacred freedoms. "The Bush Administration is deciding the fate of women's health and economic opportunities based on political ideology instead of scientific and medical reason," said Alex Sanger, chair of IPPF/WHR's International Planned Parenthood Council. "We must make our voices in support of women's rights heard."
Due to its principled refusal to accept the Global Gag Rule's restrictions, IPPF/WHR sacrificed more than $12 million in USAID fundingmore money than any other reproductive rights organization. Meanwhile, some 1,600 women worldwide die each day from pregnancy and childbirth complications. Many of these deaths could be prevented by lifting the Gag Rule and making routine reproductive health services more available worldwide.
Visitors to the new http://www.FreeChoiceSavesLives.org web site can send a letter to President Bush asking him to help protect women's lives by removing the Global Gag Rule. IPPF/WHR intends to recruit 50,000 people to the FreeChoiceSavesLives.org campaign by its 50th anniversary in October. "We hope that people are moved to visit www.FreeChoiceSavesLives.org to take a step toward ending the Global Gag Rule and improving women's health," said Sanger.