Thursday, January 29, 2009

Change & United States' global health policy

Nothing more than too-much-to-do accounts for our not yet mentioning changes to the United States' foreign policy on family planning this past week.
Included in a a flurry of executive action, about which we've posted here and here and here, was President Barack Obama's restoration of U.S. funding for global organizations whose health-care activities include counseling about, advocacy for, or performance of abortions. U.S. Agency for International Development funds had been halted as soon as George W. Bush assumed the Presidency in 2001 -- having previously been reinstated by new President Bill Clinton in 1993, after having 1st been cut off by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
As might be expected, anti-abortion groups are not happy; contrarily, as the Washington Post reported:
Obama's decision was praised by family planning groups, women's health advocates and others for allowing the U.S. Agency for International Development to once again provide millions of dollars to programs offering medical services, birth control, HIV prevention and other care.
Also undone, the so-called "global gag rule." We print Obama's rescission order, styled as a memo to new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in full:
SUBJECT: Mexico City Policy and Assistance for Voluntary Population Planning
The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151b(f)(1)), prohibits nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that receive Federal funds from using those funds "to pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning, or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions." The August 1984 announcement by President Reagan of what has become known as the "Mexico City Policy" directed the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to expand this limitation and withhold USAID funds from NGOs that use non-USAID funds to engage in a wide range of activities, including providing advice, counseling, or information regarding abortion, or lobbying a foreign government to legalize or make abortion available. The Mexico City Policy was in effect from 1985 until 1993, when it was rescinded by President Clinton. President George W. Bush reinstated the policy in 2001, implementing it through conditions in USAID grant awards, and subsequently extended the policy to "voluntary population planning" assistance provided by the Department of State.
These excessively broad conditions on grants and assistance awards are unwarranted. Moreover, they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning programs in foreign nations. Accordingly, I hereby revoke the Presidential memorandum of January 22, 2001, for the Administrator of USAID (Restoration of the Mexico City Policy), the Presidential memorandum of March 28, 2001, for the Administrator of USAID (Restoration of the Mexico City Policy), and the Presidential memorandum of August 29, 2003, for the Secretary of State (Assistance for Voluntary Population Planning). In addition, I direct the Secretary of State and the Administrator of USAID to take the following actions with respect to conditions in voluntary population planning assistance and USAID grants that were imposed pursuant to either the 2001 or 2003 memoranda and that are not required by the Foreign Assistance Act or any other law: (1) immediately waive such conditions in any current grants, and (2) notify current grantees, as soon as possible, that these conditions have been waived. I further direct that the Department of State and USAID immediately cease imposing these conditions in any future grants.
This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
The Secretary of State is authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
THE WHITE HOUSE, January 23, 2009.

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