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Liberal government to voice support for Joe Biden cancelling U.S. 'global gag rule'


DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — The federal government will voice its support later today when President Joe Biden rescinds the United States' so-called global gag rule. 

The policy prohibits international non-profit groups from receiving U.S. funding if they provide abortion counselling or referrals.

Biden will issue a presidential memorandum today that the White House says will protect and expand access to reproductive health care.

"Women's rights are human rights," International Development Minister Karina Gould says in a statement to be released later today welcoming the decision.  

It's a sign, she says, of the U.S. joining "the global consensus on the right for women to choose and support programs for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights."

In 2019, the federal Liberals announced a 10-year plan to spend $1.4 billion a year by 2023 on a "comprehensive approach" to women's health and rights around the world. 

That plan includes $700 million specifically for sexual and reproductive health, including comprehensive abortion care. 

"Our government will continue to work with partners in Canada and around the world to dismantle barriers that seek to restrict women, girls and trans people from accessing the health care they have a right to."

Biden's decision is part of what has become a regular back-and-forth between Republican and Democratic presidents when it comes to reproductive rights. 

The rule, introduced by Ronald Reagan in 1985, has been either rescinded or restored by every administration since Bill Clinton defeated George Bush in 1992. 

Donald Trump's version of the rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy, was the most expansive yet, covering an estimated US$12 billion in international health aid. 

Ottawa-based Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights intends to press the Biden White House to back its expressions of support with real funding and political momentum.  

"The Biden administration has its work cut out for it on the global stage," executive director Kara Gillis says in a statement to be released today. 

"Repealing the global gag rule is a good and expected first step, but it needs to come with political and global funding commitments that support sexual and reproductive rights on the ground."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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