When Barack Obama took over as president, it represented a change in America of enormous magnitude. The people in this country are hopeful that Obama will improve healthcare, better the economy and fix the current education system.
What’s even more impressive is that Obama has extended his hand to the rest of the world, hoping to improve relations with countries that George W. Bush so thoughtlessly turned his back on.
Obama recently ended the Mexico City Policy, otherwise known as the “Global Gag Rule,” which banned funding for family planning groups overseas that didn’t adhere to a U.S. directive to ban abortion.
Obama, who has long supported a woman’s right to choose and advocates sexual health education, lifted the controversial on-again, off-again Reagan-era policy.
The language of the gag rule was that countries getting family planning money from the U.S. would “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.” This meant that even private citizens in underdeveloped nations could not openly discuss abortion, or the entire country would be cut off, hence the title “gag.”
Ronald Reagan instituted the Mexico City Policy in 1984, Bill Clinton lifted it in 1993 and Bush reinstated it in 2001. Are we detecting a pattern here?
According to the United Nations Populations Fund, more than 200 million women lack access to safe and effective contraception. Most victims are in developing countries that lack sexual health education and proper medical facilities. The UNPF also reports that some 74,000 women die each year from unsafe abortions.
This is unacceptable. Regardless of religious beliefs, no one should die as a result of substandard healthcare.
Supporters of the ban believe it advocates abortion and sexual promiscuity. If history has taught us nothing else, it’s that all living things will likely have sex. This includes young people, old people, gay people, straight people, cool people and weird people.
We must educate and protect sexually active people to reduce unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. In fact, removing the gag will reduce unsafe sex and dangerous abortions. By providing quality health programs to countries that lack funding, healthy sexual behavior can be properly taught and addressed.
Unwanted pregnancies are often a result of rape and incest in struggling and war-torn regions. Forcing women to have babies because they have no viable alternative creates the legacy of poverty that keeps women and children in perpetual bondage.
Last Thursday, Obama addressed the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade by saying, “While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies.” The fight that we faced for women’s reproductive rights in 1973 needs to be fought on a global scale.
What the religious right and conservative Republicans don’t get is that opponents of the Mexico City Policy want to address sexual issues in a realistic, humanitarian and responsible way.
It’s callous to demand that people in other countries keep their mouths shut on matters that directly impact their existence based on a foreign ideological agenda. Let’s deal with this complex issue in a constructive manner.
Trying to end sexual activity outside of marriage is about as realistic as believing in the Tooth Fairy.
In December 2008, the Cal State Long Beach Feminist Organization Reclaiming Consciousness and Equality (F.O.R.C.E) staged a campus “die-in.” Participants were dressed in all black, sprawled about the lawn in front of the Speaker’s Platform like corpses in protest of the multitude of deaths that resulted from the hegemonic Global Gag Rule.
This shows how passionate the younger generation is about this issue. They are proactively embracing to the leadership of a man who won’t stand around and watch as the world’s women and children suffer needlessly. Neither should we.