The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

No More Gag Rule

Posted by caitlinate on January 25, 2009

This has very little to do with Australia directly but as it affects women all over the world I’m posting on it. And because I’m so excited and happy it has happened I want to share it with everyone!

Barack Obama on Friday struck down the Bush administration’s ban on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information. These are usually clinics that also work on other aspects of reproductive health care and HIV/AIDS and the result of the ban is generally the closure of free and/or low-cost rural clinics. Bush’s policy made it more difficult for women around the world to gain access to information and health care services, meaning many women are deprived of contraception and other health services in poor countries, leading to back-alley abortions and deaths

“Rather than limiting women’s ability to receive reproductive health services, we should be supporting programs that help women and their partners make decisions to ensure their health and the health of their families.”

– Hillary Clinton

ALSO! Obama also said he would restore funding to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA). UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programs that attempt to reduce poverty, protect women’s health, prevent HIV/AIDS, and ensure that “every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.” They’re big on gender equality being a human right and the importance of empowering women, supporting projects that improve women’s health and expand their choices in life. 180 other nations are already involved and the U.S. Congress has approved $40 million every year to go to the fund. Every single time the Bush administration blocked the funds.

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund responded to the action with the following:

“The president’s actions send a strong message about his leadership and his desire to support causes that will promote peace and dignity, equality for women and girls and economic development in the poorest regions of the world. We are confident that under the new president’s direction, the U.S. will resume its leadership in promoting and protecting women’s reproductive health and rights worldwide.”

This signals fantastic things for women in the world, particularly those living in poorer nations. I am so excited that these actions are some of the first Obama would take and it signals to me a continuation of his wider commitment to women’s rights. With Obama, Biden and Clinton is such powerful positions I’m really excited about the progress that could be made in women’s rights internationally in the next four years

P.s. Think this isn’t that big a step? Check out the major league voices of dissent… oh Charmaine Yoest, how you make my uterus bleed. (We won’t even go into the comments from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell or the House Minority Leader John Boehner. Ick.)


5 Responses to “No More Gag Rule”

  1. Nina said

    Only one thing to say to this:


  2. Leah said

    Wonder if Australia will follow suit?

  3. AP said

    It does have a little to do with Australia…

    Many moons ago, Little Johnny was attempting to get some piece of legislation through the Senate, and needed one more vote – the vote of (cue dark, forbidding music) Brian Harradine. Brain had had heard about the global gag rule, and rather liked the idea. So, in return for his vote, Brian got the government to change AusAID regulations on funding for reproductive services, signing Australia up to the gag. (for more info check out

    Interestingly this was a change to regulation, not legislation, so was not debated in Parliament.

    The Rudd Opposition made noises during its election campaign that it would overturn these regulations. However, to the best of my knowledge they are still “looking into it”.

    Right after Rudd got in, AusAID (or so my sources tell me) was swamped with letters from Marie Stopes, The Australian Reproductive Health Alliance, concerned citizens etc etc demanding the gag be removed. The response was “we’re looking into it”.

    The issue was again raised at Senate Estimates in June last year (perhaps be Kerry Nettle?), but unfortunately they’re still “looking into it”.

    Perhaps in light of the decision in the US this is a good time to step up our efforts to get these retrogressive regulations overturned in Australia. I’ve never been a huge fan of letter writing, but done correctly it can have an impact – having Bob McMullan (Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance) and Stephen Smith (Minister for Foreign Affairs) signing 10 reply letters a day each can really drum the message in after a while. So…if you want to have a go, write to:

    The Hon Stephen Smith MP
    Minister for Foreign Affairs
    PO Box 6022
    House of Representatives
    Parliament House
    Canberra ACT 2600

    Or email him at (although emails do not always illicit a reply, which is what we’re after).

    You could also write to:

    The Hon Bob McMullan MP
    Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance
    PO Box 6022
    House of Representatives
    Parliament House
    Canberra ACT 2600

    Writing in your own words (rather than those off someone’s website), stating your person views on the issue, and explicitly asking for a reply helps your letter not be deemed ‘campaign mail’ which does not get a response. Both Stephen and Bob read over the replies sent to them to sign, and signing 10 letters a day on the same issue can get rather irritating for a time-poor MP.

  4. tina_sparkle said

    I am in love with this man.

  5. […] in President Obama’s steps, the Australian Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, changed the guidelines on March […]

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