What is the Global Democracy Promotion Act (GDPA)?
This legislation (S. 1585/H.R. 2639), introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY/18), would create a permanent, legislative repeal of the Global Gag Rule.
President Obama rescinded the Gag Rule when he took office. Why do we need the GDPA?
The Gag Rule has always taken the form of an Executive Order. It can be unilaterally imposed or rescinded by whoever happens to be in the Oval Office. There is nothing to stop a future president from simply reinstating it again. In fact, given the highly politicized nature of the Gag Rule, a hostile president would almost certainly do so. The GDPA would end this political ping-pong game by creating a legal barrier to a unilateral action on the part of any administration.
Does the potential return of the Gag Rule have any impact on the ground today?
Absolutely. The threat of the Gag Rule’s return has a chilling effect on all levels of aid distribution and creates tremendous inefficiencies in the system.
Groups on the ground are usually operating on a limited budget. They are often hesitant to create infrastructure, hire and train staff, and begin service delivery if they know they run the risk of losing their funding after the next political cycle. The lead time needed to get a new program up and running means that they might only have just begun when the funding stops. And when a president imposes the Gag Rule, the funding stops immediately—groups shut down their U.S.-funded operations the same day.
The potential return of the Gag Rule also affects the government grant process. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) evaluates potential grant recipients on a number of grounds, including their ability to effectively use the funds provided. A typical grant cycle is five years. If USAID knows that a particular organization might become ineligible for funding in the third or fourth year of their contract, that possibility may influence their funding decisions, regardless of the current policy.
What should I do?
Ask your senators and representative to co-sponsor the GDPA. Tell them how important it is that we do not miss our opportunity to pass this act this year. Building a strong base of support through co-sponsorship and outreach is key to persuading lawmakers that they should feel a sense of urgency about the Gag Rule, even when it isn’t technically in effect.
The Gag Rule is a heinous policy that inflicts tremendous suffering on some of the world’s most vulnerable women. Its status as an administrative tool, subject only to the inclination of the president in office, gives U.S. aid policy a near-arbitrary quality that is not only irresponsible, but also cruel. Women in the developing world who benefit from American aid should not have to worry that their access to health care is dependent on the outcome of an American election. Passing the language of the GDPA will make American policy more effective, more rational, and more just.