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Immediate Impact: Global Gag Rule

New York Times editorial recently covered a piece of international women’s health/development policy that would face immediate consequences in the event of a Romney victory next week. Mitt Romney has already pledged to reinstate the ‘Mexico City policy’ which forbids federal dollars for family-planning to any organization that provides information, advice, referrals, or services related to legal abortion — even if they are doing it with their own funds or funding from a different donor. It even extends to organizations that have supported the legalization of abortions in the countries in which they operate. This is not exactly a surprise; since its inception, the Mexico City policy has been activated by Republican presidents and suspended by Democratic presidents as they come into office.

To understand the largely pointless and political nature of this gag rule, it is important to note that, due to various existing federal statues, it is already illegal for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to fund activities related to the practice of abortion under any circumstances. This policy simply hurts family-planning groups and clinics that provide many other necessary and lifesaving, family-planning activities funded by the American people for the sake of one practice that is already unsupported. In turn, this results in negative outcomes for men and women seeking  family-planning help and creates larger unmet need. This is not ideal, as fewer unwanted pregnancies lead to fewer abortions. Studies (and sometimes, common sense) have linked prevalence of modern contraceptive methods to lower rates of abortion.