Salon: Today the president will lift the so-called global gag rule or Mexico City Policy that forbids NGOs that receive federal funding from providing abortion services or counseling abroad. The rule was first announced in 1984, in Mexico City at the United Nations International Conference on Population, at the height of Reagan-era social conservative fever. It meant that many international family planning and reproductive health organizations (including the International Planned Parenthood Federation) lost a heap of money from the feds, and that others that wanted or needed to keep their funding had to conform to strict policies in which advocacy, counseling or provision of abortion services was verboten. The rule was rescinded by Bill Clinton in 1993, immediately after he took office, and promptly reinstated by George Bush in 2001, days after he took office. So Obama's decision here is not surprising, but it is certainly good news for women and men around the world.
Update - Obama's statement:
It is clear that the provisions of the Mexico City Policy are unnecessarily broad and unwarranted under current law, and for the past eight years, they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries. For these reasons, it is right for us to rescind this policy and restore critical efforts to protect and empower women and promote global economic development.
For too long, international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back and forth debate that has served only to divide us. I have no desire to continue this stale and fruitless debate.
It is time that we end the politicization of this issue. In the coming weeks, my Administration will initiate a fresh conversation on family planning, working to find areas of common ground to best meet the needs of women and families at home and around the world.
I have directed my staff to reach out to those on all sides of this issue to achieve the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies. They will also work to promote safe motherhood, reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and increase educational and economic opportunities for women and girls.
In addition, I look forward to working with Congress to restore U.S. financial support for the U.N. Population Fund. By resuming funding to UNFPA, the U.S. will be joining 180 other donor nations working collaboratively to reduce poverty, improve the health of women and children, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide family planning assistance to women in 154 countries.