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Statement of Catholics for a Free Choice President Frances Kissling in Response to President Bush’s Reinstatement of the “Global Gag Rule”

January 23, 2001

Recent executive memorandum endangers women’s health

Washington, DC—It is sad that the first major policy action of President Bush, who calls himself a “compassionate conservative,” is restricting family planning funds that are much needed to save women’s lives.  Known as the “Global Gag Rule,” this restriction cuts off funding for groups that provide comprehensive reproductive health services, including not just contraception, but information, education or services that help women avoid botched, unsafe illegal abortions.

Catholic support for women’s access to reproductive health services—internationally and domestically—is widespread:

  • 79% of Catholics support US aid programs for international family planning.
    –Belden Russonello & Stewart, Dec. 1998
  • 75% of Catholic women of childbearing age who are currently sexually active use a contraceptive method forbidden by the church.
    –National Survey of Family Growth, 1995
  • 53% of Catholics believe that you can be a good Catholic without obeying the church hierarchy’s teaching on abortion.
    –National Catholic Reporter, Oct. 1999

While there is no doubt that the president is attempting to satisfy the demands of his conservative base, it is tragic that he does so at the expense of the world’s poorest women.  Without proper access to family planning services and without access to safe, legal abortions, too many women will die or suffer serious damage to their health.  Without the right to express their views on abortion, family planning agencies cannot fully serve their clients.

For providers of family planning services, the price for US funding should not be silence on the abortion issue.  We are disappointed that President Bush is more concerned about pleasing his conservative friends than about protecting the lives and health of women.