36th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade; End of Global Gag Rule…?


photo by Shht!

Today marks the 36th year women have been legally allowed to make decisions about their own bodies, without (too much) interference from the government, despite continuous threats from religious and anti-choice extremists. According to NOW:

Hateful legislation seeking to block our reproductive freedom continues to pour out of conservative state legislatures. Pharmacists are refusing to fill birth control prescriptions. Hospitals are denying emergency contraception to rape survivors. Clinics endure constant harassment.

Thankfully, we’ve now got a pro-choice Congress (barely) and a pro-choice President. It’s expected that early in his first term (today? this week? Ed note: He did it on Friday, January 23, 2009), Obama will repeal the Global Gag Rule which, according to Population Action International, basically states that international NGOs must either “accept U.S. assistance to provide essential health services — but with restrictions that may jeopardize the health of many patients — or reject the policy and lose vital U.S. funds, contraceptive supplies and technical assistance.” Not much of a choice.

According to a post on UN Dispatch, overturning the Global Gag Rule and investing $100 million in Family Planning would yield the following health impact:

  • Contraceptive users added – 3.6 million
  • Unintended pregnancies avoided – 2.1 million
  • Abortions prevented – 825,000
  • Infant deaths prevented – 70,000
  • Maternal lives saved – 4,000

We were hoping that President Obama would overturn the policy today (as Bill Clinton overturned anti-choice policies on the Roe anniversary back in 1993). Perhaps he’s delaying to soften the blow to the millions of right-wing nutjobs who would send women back to back alleys: they’re still his constituents, after all. Today, tomorrow…just do it soon! Too many lives are at stake.

Of course, untying the gag is just the first step. Hopefully the “conscience” rule (which allows health care providers to deny women access to healthcare, including birth control), the ban on stem cell research, and abstinence-only education are also not long for this world, under this administration. One thing’s certain, we cannot kick up our feet and get comfortable (have you seen the Supreme Court lately?!): fighting to make sure Roe stays in place and making the world safe for women and their bodies are still, sadly, ongoing battles.

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