The origins of the gag order lie in a policy statement that a U.S. delegation delivered to a United Nations population control conference in Mexico City in 1984. The policy led the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to place conditions on aid to population groups in language called the Standard Clause, which states that an aid recipient will not “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in USAID-recipient countries or provide any financial assistance to any other foreign non-governmental organization that conducts such activities.”
The policy and the Standard Clause were later held to be constitutional by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA IV) v. AID, 915 F.2d 59 (2d Cir. 1990).
After President Bill Clinton rescinded the policy by executive order upon taking office in 1993, the restrictions reemerged in new, albeit somewhat less stringent form, when Congress enacted fiscal year 2000 restrictions which require USAID fund recipients to certify that they do not perform abortions in any foreign country “except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term or in cases of forcible rape or incest.”
Recipients must also not violate the laws of the country “concerning the circumstances under which abortion is permitted, regulated or prohibited,” or “engage in activities or efforts to alter the laws or governmental policies” concerning abortion.
While President Clinton used his authority to waive this requirement, only $15 million in funding was provided for population activities worldwide by Congress in fiscal year 2000.
REINSTATEMENT OF GAG
Then, in one of the first acts of his administration, President Bush announced in January that he was ordering the reinstatement of the “gag” or Mexico City Rule.
In response, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., proposed legislation to permanently rescind the rule: the Global Democracy Promotion Act.
The shift in power in the U.S. Senate made Boxer the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on International Operations and Terrorism, and gave her the power to schedule and hold hearings on the gag rule.
Boxer submitted an affidavit in anticipation in support of the CRLP’s lawsuit and in anticipation of the testimony of Galdos, co-founder of Movimiento Manuela Ramos, a nongovernmental organization that has been fighting for women’s health and reproductive rights in Peru for over 20 years.
In her affidavit, Galdos said that Boxer stated at a Feb. 15 press conference, “Her comments were strictly limited to the effects of the policy on democracy and free speech. It is my understanding that Ms. Galdos has been unable to speak about abortion at several additional CRLP-related events due to the gag rule.”
“Because of my interest in obtaining full and complete testimony from Ms. Galdos, I submit this declaration in support of an immediate injunction from this court to protect Ms. Galdos from the censorship imposed by the gag rule and to prevent CRLP’s efforts in bringing her before my subcommittee from being diminished and attenuated,” Boxer said.
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