WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) voted in the Appropriations Committee on Thursday to permanently repeal the “Global Gag Rule” – also referred to as the “Mexico City Policy” – in the State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) appropriations bill. The Global Gag Rule prohibits health organizations funded by the United States from providing family-planning services to women around the world, even if these activities are supported solely with non-U.S. funds. The amendment, introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), cleared the committee by a vote of 19-11.

“The Global Gag Rule has hurt women’s health around the world, denying access to life-saving family-planning and reproductive health services,” Senator Coons said. “All women should have the right to affordable, accessible health care. For 30 years, on-again-off-again enforcement of the Global Gag Rule has confused and confounded the implementation of U.S.-funded medical assistance, unfairly forcing community health clinics that serve some the most vulnerable women around the world to choose between providing full women’s health services and accepting desperately needed U.S. assistance. The Global Gag Rule must be permanently repealed.” Senator Coons chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs.

“Politicians should not come between a woman and her doctor, no matter where she lives,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said. “The Shaheen amendment could mean ending the Global Gag Rule once and for all, 30 years after its inception. Imagine that: no more service interruptions, health center closures, or playing political football with women’s health and lives.”

The amendment would permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule, ending the restriction on foreign organizations from engaging in activities that are legal in their own countries and in the United States. The rule was first put into effect in 1984, and has been ignored or enforced by every president since then. The amendment is necessary to make sure that future Administrations cannot reinstate the policy, providing certainty to the organizations that are providing important family planning services overseas. 

The SFOPS appropriations bill now moves to consideration by the full Senate.

Efforts to repeal the Global Gag Rule are supported by a number of organizations, including: Advocates for Youth, American Association of University Women, American Civil Liberties Union, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Catholics for Choice, Center for Health & Gender Equity, Center for Reproductive Rights, Center for Women Policy Studies, Communications Consortium Media Center, EngenderHealth, Family Care International, Feminist Majority Foundation, Hadassah – The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., Human Rights Watch, International Center for Research on Women, International Women’s Health Coalition, Ipas, John Snow, Inc., Management Sciences for Health, Metropolitan Community Churches, MSI-US, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Council of Jewish Women, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Organization for Women, Pathfinder International, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Action International, Population Connection Action Fund, Population Council, Population Institute, Population Services International, Public Health Institute, Religious Institute, Sierra Club, The United Methodist Church, General Board of Church & Society. 

Senator Coons voted for a similar amendment in the Appropriations Committee in 2013, but the underlying bill was never considered by the full Senate.