Friday, January 23, 2009

Saving Lives Instead of Destroying Them

This afternoon, President Obama cancelled a bush maladministration policy that cost lives in numbers to rival the six-figure casualties of the Iraq clusterfuck.

The "global gag rule" reversed by Obama did far worse than its usual description of "denying funds to organizations that mention abortion."

The rule, in actual practice, forced rural health clinics that served impoverished families in Africa, Asia and South America to close down altogether. One raped 11-year-old saved from a lethal pregnancy put at risk all the life-saving vaccinations and medications and surgeries needed by the thousands served by a single clinic.

This is why the claims, even on the left, that Smirky's "AIDS policy" was one good thing to his credit, are utter bullshit.

If rural clinics in Africa closed for lack of funding that Bush withheld because the clinics distributed factual information about birth control, abortion and using condoms to prevent HIV transmission, then Smirky's "AIDS policy" was not saving people, it was killing them.

The "Mexico City" policy prohibits US dollars and contraceptive supplies from going to any international family planning program that provides abortions or counsels women about their reproductive health options. The policy isn't about money going to pay for abortions. Even those groups that use only private funds for abortion services -- where abortion is legal -- are barred from assistance. This is money going to family planning programs. [...]

[N]ot only are organizations that provide or counsel about abortion services affected; those that dare to take part in a public discussion about legalizing abortion are also affected (hence the name "global gag rule").... This policy has nothing to do with government-sponsored abortions overseas. Ten years before the gag rule was in place the law strictly prohibited that. This policy is about disqualifying prochoice organizations from receiving US international family planning funding.

Under Bush's policy, organizations that play a vital role in women's health are forced to make an impossible choice. If they refuse to be "gagged," they lose the funding that enables them to help women and families who are cut off from basic health care and family planning. But if they accept funding, they must accept restrictions that jeopardize the health of the women they serve.

The most tragic ramifications have been felt in the developing world. In Kenya, for example, two of the leading family planning organizations have been forced to shut down five clinics dispensing aid from prenatal care and vaccinations to malaria screening and AIDS prevention. Kenya's experience is common, according to "Access Denied," a report on the impact of the global gag rule on developing nations. Researchers found that programs for rural communities and urban slums have been scaled back by as much as 50 percent. As a result more women are turning to unsafe abortion -- a leading cause of death for young women in much of Africa -- because they lack access to family planning information and essential contraceptive supplies.

As Steve Benen noted earlier, "In the 1990s, the United States helped lead on international family planning, promoting sustainable development, empowering women, and saving lives. If Obama acts today to end the gag rule, we can again."

Any policy that directly results in people not receiving life-saving health care is not just ineffectual. It's homicidal. Or in this case, genocidal.

That goes for abstinence-only "education" and the pope's edict that it's better to die of AIDS than use condoms. Pure, unadulterated genocide.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ...