REINSTATES GLOBAL GAG RULE
As one of the first policy actions of his new
administration, President George W. Bush issued a memorandum Jan. 22 banning federal funds
to international family planning groups that offer abortion services, counseling or
referrals, or engage in lobbying on abortion issues with their own funds.
Bush's decision to reinstate the "global gag
rule" was reported in coast-to-coast front-page stories Jan. 23, including in the Boston
Globe, Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The
New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today. It was also covered by major
network news and cable news programs Jan. 22 and 23, including ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX,
MSNBC and CNN. The coverage was extensive, with numerous outlets
running several stories about the politics of Bush's decision, reactions from U.S. groups,
and a smaller number detailing the effects of the decision on programs abroad.
The Associated Press alone filed more than
a dozen stories on Jan. 22 and 23 that were carried across the United States. A Jan. 23
story interviewing organizations including Pathfinder International and Population Action
International stated that the restrictions "are more likely to increase teen
pregnancies in Europe and the spread of AIDS in Africa than decrease abortions
overseas." Other AP stories focused on support for Bush's decision by the Vatican and
on criticism from a European Union official who "said the decision was especially
harmful to poor women in developing countries who depend on non-governmental
In a Jan. 27 Newsweek interview,
International Planned Parenthood Assistant Director-General Dr. Pramilla Senanayake called
Bush's decision "very short-sighted" because it will "increase the
transmission of infections like HIV...the number of women dying due to
reproductive-health-related cases...[and] increase the number of women who will be maimed
for life as a result of the consequences of bad reproductive-health services."
National Public Radio reported on the
story Jan. 22, 23, 24, 27 and 28. In an hour-long discussion on NPR's Talk of the Nation
program Jan. 24, the host read from an International Family Planning Coalition letter to
President Bush that said, "by continuing to talk about taxpayer funding, your
administration...seems to be engaging in a deliberate attempt to mislead the American
people about the nature of international family planning funding." Bush had described
his decision by stating "it is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used
to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortion, either here or
Much of the early reporting emphasized the politics of
Bush's decision--which was announced on the 28th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v.
Wade decision that legalized abortion--and erroneously implied that Bush's order ended
taxpayer funding of foreign abortions, rather than reporting that U.S. law has prohibited
the use of U.S. funds for any abortion services overseas since 1973. Several Jan. 23
headlines illustrate the bias:
+ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's
headline was "Bush Leaps to Fight Abortion."
+ The Boston Globe reported Jan. 23 that
"Bush Bans Abortion Aid Overseas."
+ The Los Angeles Times' headline read
"Bush Bans Aid to Abortion Support Groups Overseas."
+ The San Francisco Chronicle reported
that "Bush Bans Use of Federal Funds for Overseas Abortion Counseling." (link)
+ USA Today's headline read "Bush
Ends Overseas Abortion." (link)
+ The Washington Post's headline read that
"Bush Reverses Abortion Aid." (link)
Several media outlets printed subsequent corrections or revisions to their coverage. A
Jan. 22 Associated Press story that was first headlined "Bush to
Block Funds for International Abortions" was refiled later as "Bush Blocks U.S.
Aid to International Groups Involved in Abortions."
The Washington Post ran a correction Jan. 24 that said their coverage
"may have implied that federal money has been used directly to provide abortions and
abortion counseling overseas," but that "in fact, Bush's action denies such
family planning grants to international groups if they use their own private funds for
abortion services." The Post's Ombudsman published a Jan. 28 column that noted the
paper had "covered the politics of what was happening but fell short, in my view and
that of some readers, on providing the background, meaning and alternative view of what
was taking place, and in critiquing the White House statement [explaining Bush's
decision]." The Ombudsman stated that "one should also ask what the practical
effects are of this policy abroad" and that missing from their coverage was that
"most of this overseas aid goes to some of the poorest countries of the world."
ABC's Nightline dedicated its Jan. 17 and
18 programs to a discussion of Global Trends 2015, a report by the U.S. intelligence
community that identified population growth and increasing urbanization in the developing
world, an aging and declining workforce in other regions, and possible water and food
scarcities as key "drivers" that will affect future U.S. strategic interests.
Nightline reported that by 2015, "nearly half of the
world's population will live in countries that are water-stressed...[and] AIDS will
consume more than 50 percent of health budgets in the hardest-hit countries. In addition,
"world population in 2015 will be 7.2 billion; 95 percent of the increase will be in
developing countries," which, for "societies that are fragile, politically or
otherwise...will be a major challenge to adapt to." The program noted that the CIA
publication demonstrates that "economic and climate shifts, and the world's public
health are now recognized parts of America's security agenda." (link)
By contrast, National Public Radio's Weekend
Edition Saturday reported Jan. 27 on declining birth rates in Italy. The country
"has just about the lowest birth rate in Europe, and with deaths now exceeding
births, its current population of 57 million is expected to shrink to 41 million half a
century from now."
PLANNING AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH
Inter Press Service reported Jan. 25 on
the launch of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, a coalition of U.S.
non-governmental organizations that agreed to "map out a strategy aimed at gaining
endorsements from the U.S. Congress 'for increased funding for maternal health
programs.'" The story noted that each year, nearly 600,000 women die worldwide from
pregnancy-related causes despite the fact that "a woman's right to health, including
reproductive health" has been "identified as an essential feature of human
rights" in a number of international commitments since the 1968 United Nations
International Conference of Human Rights, held in Tehran, Iran.
According to the Panafrican News Agency
Jan. 31, "humanitarian organisations operating in Kenya's north Rift Valley region
have launched an aggressive campaign to stop female genital mutilation (FGM) in the
area." Organizations including World Vision Kenya and the Centre for Human Rights and
Democracy will hold "anit-FGM seminars...at the community level to help discourage
the practice." (link)
The Associated Press reported Jan. 29 that
"the [British] House of Lords endorsed the government's strategy of allowing the
'morning after' contraceptive pill to be sold over the counter in an attempt to cut
Britain's high teen-age birth rate." Media across the United Kingdom also reported on
the support for emergency contraceptives in Britain, including the Daily Telegraph
(London) on Jan. 27 and the Journal (Newcastle), Herald (Glasgow) and Times (London) on
INTERNATIONAL ABORTION TRENDS
In Rwanda, the parliament "adopted a law punishing
deliberate abortion with five to 15 years of imprisonment, and for those who attempt to
abort, with an imprisonment of six months to three years," according to a Jan. 23
report by the BBC Worldwide Monitoring service.
A German Catholic Bishop "reached a compromise with
the Vatican that would allow him to continue offering [abortion counseling] certificates,
which...must be obtained by women in Germany to legally have an abortion," the Jan.
22 Associated Press reported. The German Bishop's Conference stopped
offering the certificates in 1999 in compliance with "the pope's request"; women
can also receive the certificates from "Protestant church groups, family planning
agencies, the Red Cross and state health centers." Agence France Presse
also reported on the story Jan. 22.
Newhouse News Service reported Jan. 16
that though "few have opened their wallets for the welfare of humankind as have Bill
Gates and Ted Turner," some "watchdog groups applaud the generosity but question
the un-elected roles the super-wealthy are taking in shaping the world agenda."
Newhouse reported that "some criticize an international environment in which
philanthropists feel compelled to fill a vacuum left by government's absence." The
story noted that last year, "the Gates Foundation gave $1.44 billion to fund health
programs for poor nations, compared to $1.16 billion given by the U.S. government."
Others, such as "socially conservative groups," specifically criticize Gates and
Turner funding of international reproductive health programs, which they "don't think
should be any American tycoon's mission." (link)
Newspapers across the United States printed nearly 100
editorials, opinion columns and letters about President Bush's decision to reinstate
global gag rule restrictions on international family planning funds.
Over 50 editorials criticized Bush's gag rule order,
including those in the Jan. 23 Capital Times (Madison, WI), Los Angeles Times, San
Francisco Chronicle, St. Louis Post Gazette and Union News (Springfield, MA);
Jan. 24 in the Albany Times (NY), Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Baltimore Sun,
Boston Globe, Buffalo News, Charleston Gazette (WV), Denver Post, Detroit News, Gainsville
Sun (FL), Miami Herald, New York Times, News Journal (Daytona Beach, FL), Newsday (NY),
Omaha World Herald (NE), Oregonian (Portland, OR), Portland Press Herald (ME), Roanoke
Times (VA), Salt Lake Tribune (UT), Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle Times and
Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI); Jan. 25 in the Arizona Daily Star
(Tucson), Austin American-Stateman (TX), Beacon Journal (Akron, OH), Cedar Rapids Gazette
(IA), Daily Camera (Boulder, CO), Des Moines Register (IA), Fresno Bee (CA), Herald-Leader
(Lexington, KY), Journal (Winston Salem, NC), Journal Star (Peoria, IL), Journal Sentinel
(Milwaukee, WI), Kansas City Star (MO), Ledger (Lakeland, FL), Philadelphia Inquirer,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA), Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), Telegram & Gazette
(Worcester, MA), Trenton Times (NJ) and Washington Post; Jan. 26 in the Eastside
Journal (Bellevue, WA); Jan. 27 in the Houston Chronicle (TX)
and again in the Portland Press Herald (ME); and Jan. 30 in the Sun-Sentinel
(Ft. Lauderdale, FL); and Jan. 31 in the Toledo Blade (OH).
Before the announcement, the Jan. 16 New York Times, Jan. 20 Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette (PA), Jan. 21 Palm Beach Post (FL) and the Jan. 22 Tulsa
World (OK) called on Bush not to reinstate the gag rule.
Editorials that supported the reinstatement of the global
gag rule appeared in the Jan. 23 Florida Times Union (Jacksonville); the
Jan. 24 Washington Times, Indianapolis Star, Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City) and
Chattanooga Times & Free Press (TN); and the Jan. 25 Chicago Tribune.
Many newspapers printed multiple editorials and opinion
pieces. The New York Times printed editorials Jan. 16 and Jan. 24, an
op-ed Jan. 27, and letters throughout the last two weeks of January. Its Jan. 24 editorial
stated that President Bush "jarred those who took seriously his talk of compromise by
punitively cutting off foreign aid to groups overseas that use their own funds to provide
abortion help to poor women." A Jan. 27 op-ed by Pathfinder International
President Daniel E. Pellegrom stated that whereas "family planning services can help
reduce the rate of abortion," the "reinstatement of the gag rule will not
accomplish this goal."
Letters in The New York Times included one from Zero Population Growth
President Peter Kostmayer Jan. 21 that noted the gag rule "would force health care
providers to choose between assistance that saves and improves the lives of women and
participating in discussion about a crucial public health issue," which is "a
choice a great country should never impose on anyone." (A Jan. 31 letter by the
Republican Pro-Choice Coalition stated that "Restricting funds by reinstating the
'global gag rule' was a misstep for a compassionate conservative agenda."
A Jan. 25 Washington Post editorial
opposed the global gag rule, noting that "making an organization censor its views as
a condition of receiving government money would be unconstitutional on free-speech ground
in this country" and "it should have no place in U.S. policy." (link)
A Jan. 26 Washington Post column by
Michael Kinsley, editor of Slate, noted that "President Bush has cut off
family-planning funds for international organizations that finance abortions on the
grounds that money given for one thing frees up money for the other" but "he
does not apply the same logic to his plans to subsidize church-based education." (link)
The Boston Globe's Jan. 24 editorial
argued "Bush's gag rule decision has already damaged his carefully nurtured image as
a moderate on social issues. (link)
Boston Globe Columnist Ellen Goodman wrote Jan. 25 that "the opening
act of this compassionate conservative is an attack on the poorest women of the world who
are looking for ways to limit and space their children. The very first 'anti-abortion'
measure is, in fact, a measure against pregnancy prevention." Columnist Derrick Z.
Jackson asked "Whatever happened to Bush the uniter?" (link)
Other opinion pieces included a Jan. 30 op-ed by the
Program for Appropriate Technology and Health in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
(link); a Jan. 29 op-ed by
Planned Parenthood of Maryland Action Fund in The Baltimore Sun (link);
a Jan. 26 op-ed by the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association in the
Pioneer Press (St. Paul, MN) (link) and a
Jan. 25 op-ed by Zero Population Growth in the Chicago Tribune.
The above analysis was written by Ketayoun
Darvich-Kodjouri and Kathy Bonk at the Communications Consortium Media Center, 1200 New
York Avenue, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005, 202/326-8700.
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