(Washington, D.C.) – Today U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) stood up for women's access to healthcare around the world by speaking out against the Bush Administration's global gag rule. The policy, imposed by President Bush in January 2001, limits women's access to safe reproductive healthcare in the world's poorest countries.
Murray spoke on the Senate floor in support of an amendment offered by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to the pending State Department Reauthorization bill. A vote on the amendment is expected later today.
"Today, women around the world are being denied the care they need because of an ideological policy, and they are dying as a result," Murray said. "We cannot tolerate that as Americans, and that's why I urge my colleagues to support the Boxer Amendment."
Senator Murray's remarks on the Senate floor follow:
Mr. President, I believe that women around the world should have access to safe healthcare, especially those who are struggling in some of the world's poorest nations. That is why I rise to support the Boxer Amendment. I want to thank Senator Boxer for standing up on an issue that affects women around the globe, and I'm proud to be a cosponsor of this amendment.
Mr. President, this is about ensuring women around the world have access to the healthcare they need especially reproductive healthcare. It doesn't get much attention, but in the developing world "complications from pregnancy" is one of the leading causes of death for women. It's up there with tuberculosis. According to the World Health Organization, more than half a million women die each year of causes related to pregnancy or childbirth. That is more than one woman dying every minute of every day. That is certainly a crisis.
Now when there's a medical crisis – something that kills hundreds of thousands of people every year – we don't just stand by. We work to make things better. And in poor countries around the world, medical professionals and non-governmental organizations are trying to making things better. They've set up clinics. They're reaching out to poor communities. And they're opening the doors of access to women and families who desperately need healthcare.
They are doing great work, but today their hands are tied. And even worse, their hands are tied because the Bush Administration has imposed its political ideology on the world. We cannot allow this undemocratic policy to deny women and their children healthcare and ultimately sentence them to die.
As my colleagues know, when President George W. Bush took office in 2001, he signed an executive order known as the global gag rule. It denies U.S. funds to any overseas health clinic unless it agrees not to use its own, private, non-U.S. funds for anything related to abortion.
If you're a medical professional living in an impoverished country trying to help people's lives, you are gagged from even talking about certain reproductive healthcare services.
Mr. President, we wouldn't stand for that in the United States. We know how important the doctor-patient relationship is. When we go to a doctor, we want to know that the doctor is giving us all the advice we need – not holding something back because of a gag rule. But that's exactly what the global gag rule forces on women in poor countries around the world, and that's wrong.
Mr. President, I'm not going to go into detail on all of the reasons why this gag rule is wrong, but let me mention a few. The gag rule undermines reproductive healthcare. The gag rule hurts our efforts to prevent HIV and AIDS. The gag rule limits access to contraceptives. The gag rule places limits on women and doctors that we would never accept here in the United States.
But here's the bottom line: This is about protecting women's lives. Today, women around the world are being denied the care they need because of an ideological policy, and they are dying as a result. We cannot tolerate that as Americans, and that's why I urge my colleagues to support the Boxer Amendment.