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House committee votes for international abortion funding restriction

The US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs [official website] Thursday voted in favor of reinstituting a directive known as the "Mexico City policy," or "Global Gag Rule," that prohibits government funding from going to international organizations that perform abortions [JURIST news archive] or provide information, referrals and counselors regarding abortions. The provision, which includes an exception for cases of rape, incest or threats to health, is part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act [text], a larger spending bill. The provision was met with opposition [AP report] by Planned Parenthood Federation of America [advocacy website], various women's rights groups and Democrats including Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) [official website], who filed an amendment [text, PDF] to strike the section before being outvoted. Berman claimed that, "The Global Gag Rule is a harmful policy that prevents poor women and families around the world from gaining access to essential information and health care services," and also that the "language of the bill ... bars ... assistance [in] HIV/AIDS funding, water and sanitation, child survival, and education."

If approved by the House and Senate, the provision would reverse US President Barack Obama's 2009 memorandum that repealed the ban [JURIST report] after reinstatement by the Bush administration. The Gag Rule has been the subject of much debate since the Reagan Administration. The law was named for the location of the UN International Conference on Population (UNICP) held in Mexico City in 1984, where it was originally announced. The funding ban was enacted that same year, but was repealed in 1993 by former president Bill Clinton. The ban was overturned in 2001 [memorandum text] by then-president George W. Bush. In 2007, the US House of Representatives passed a measure [JURIST report] that would have reversed the funding restrictions, but the bill was never approved by the Senate.

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