|Obama opens access to reproductive health services|
By United Methodist News Service*
Feb. 5, 2009
An executive with The United Methodist Church’s social action agency
said action by President Obama on two issues related to access to
reproductive health service will reduce abortions, the spread of
sexually transmitted diseases and save lives.
Obama repealed the “Global Gag Rule,” also known as the “Mexico City
Policy,” on Jan. 23 and restored funding to the United Nations
Linda Bales, executive with the United Methodist Board of Church and
Society, said the result of those two actions mean money and services
will be available to assist people through the “full-range of
reproductive health services.”
“This global gag rule crippled many health-care clinics in poor, underserved parts of the world,” Bales said.
The Mexico City Policy has been U.S. government policy since 1984, she
explained. It requires non-governmental organizations to refrain from
offering abortion information or services in other countries if they
wish to receive federal funding. This restriction applied even if the
organization funded the services with its own money.
“Sometimes these clinics were the only source of health care for nearby
residents,” Bales said. “In a double standard, organizations in the
United States were not bound by this restriction.”
The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice also praised the
decision. “Member groups of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive
Choice have a heritage of service to underserved and vulnerable
communities and a commitment to the well being of families,” said Rev.
the Carlton W. Veazey, president of the organization in a Jan. 23
The United Methodist Church was a founding member of the coalition and
the 2008 General Conference, the denomination’s lawmaking body, voted
to continue membership of the denomination’s Board of Church and
Society and the Women’s Division of the Board of Global Ministries in
“More than 500,000 women in developing countries die each year from
pregnancy-related causes, and 8 million more suffer serious
complications, often due to pregnancies that occur at a young age or
are too closely spaced,” Veazey said. “Each year, approximately 10.8
million children under the age of five die, frequently from low
birth-weight or other causes related to complications in pregnancy.”
Obama said it is clear that the provisions of the Mexico City Policy are unnecessarily broad and unwarranted under current law.
“For the past eight years, they have undermined efforts to promote safe
and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries,” he
said in a statement. “For these reasons, it is right for us to rescind
this policy and restore critical efforts to protect and empower women
and promote global economic development.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement on the same day
endorsing the president’s action. “Rather than limiting women's ability
to receive reproductive health services,” she said, “we should be
supporting programs that help women and their partners make decisions
to ensure their health and the health of their families.”
The United Nations Population Fund provides family planning and AIDS
prevention services around the globe. The fund does not provide
abortion services as some of its critics have charged, Bales said.
By resuming funding, Obama said, the United States will be joining 180
other donor nations working collaboratively to reduce poverty, improve
the health of women and children, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide family
planning assistance to women in 154 countries.
*Information for this report was provided by Faith in Action, a newsletter of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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