July 22, 2011 — The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday as part of foreign aid legislation (HR 2583) endorsed reinstating the so-called Mexico City Policy, also known as the "global gag rule," which blocks federal funds to international family planning groups that use their own funds to perform abortions or offer abortion information, AP/Forbes reports.
The policy -- which includes exceptions in cases of rape, incest or when a woman's life is in danger -- has been in and out of law since it was first adopted by President Reagan in 1984. President Clinton in 1993 reversed the ban, but President George W. Bush reinstated it in 2001 as one of his first actions after taking office. President Obama overturned the restriction within his first days in office, AP/Forbes reports.
On Wednesday, the committee voted 25-17 to reject an amendment offered by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) that would have removed the policy provision. Berman said the policy "prevents poor women and families around the world from gaining access to essential information and health care services," adding that the provision also prevents any financial assistance for programs including HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and testing, child survival, education, water and sanitization (Cassata, AP/Forbes, 7/21).
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the "policy would be patently unconstitutional if applied to U.S.-based groups. It is un-democratic and un-American for Congress to decide that foreign community and health groups are not worthy of the same free-speech as Americans" (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 7/21).
The House foreign aid bill would cut about $6.4 billion from President Obama's request of $51 billion for the State Department and other foreign operations in next year's budget. The bill is not expected to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate (AP/Forbes, 7/21).