And now…for something totally different.

Last week was an amazing week for our country.  We inaugurated a new president, a president who looks nothing like his predecessors.  People danced in the streets.

Our new president got very busy very quickly, signing executive orders right and left.  One such order was as exciting for many of us as it was predictable:  he overturned the Mexico City Policy, aka the Global Gag Rule.  I have been asked to write about this, so I’ll give it my best shot (keep in mind – I am still recovering from my three weeks of puking, so be kind in your dissent and be very effusive with any praise.  Hee hee).

We’ll start with a point-blank assessment of my opinion, so we can all be very clear up front:

I applauded the President’s moves on EVERY single one of his executive orders, because I applaud EVERY executive order that champions human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

I applauded his order to close the prison camp at Gitmo, because I strongly, staunchly believe in the value of our constitutional rights – even for the most hardened, most despicable of criminals.  I believe that if we have a sustainable case against any given terrorist, that person can be prosecuted in an appropriate court of law, accorded due process. Think about it this way:  if someone suddenly invaded the U.S., kidnapped *you*, and brought *you* back to an off-shore military base, with absolutely no end in sight, would it make you *more* or *less* likely to want to wage war on the country that kidnapped you in the first place?


I celebrated the executive order that eliminated torture.  Frankly, I find it hard to believe *any* confession obtained through coercive methods, and torture is an absolutely abhorrent method of procuring a confession.  Think about it again:  If *you* were being fake-drowned, or hung naked with Rottweilers snarling at your nether regions, would you seriously tell the truth?  Or would you say *anything*, just to get those damn dogs away from you?

I am not too proud to say I’d pretty much cry uncle.  Immediately.  And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one like that.

And I was excited, but not surprised, that President Obama overturned the Global Gag Rule.  YOU might be surprised that I was excited about this.  So let’s simply review what the GGR actually is:

In 1984, then-President Reagan signed an executive order to suspend federal funding for any U.S. organization  operating overseas with an arm that discussed, supported, or mentioned abortions in ANY country.  Lest you wonder, it was entirely political (don’t you think he wanted the votes from the Christian conservative base?).  It was certainly not to save the lives of unborn children.  In essence, those same organizations refused to stop their activities (which were primarily focused on PREVENTING pregnancies, rather than ENDING them) and they were forced to solicit funds from other countries.

In 1993, in his second day in office, President Clinton overturned the ban, stating that organizations should be able to receive federal funding for the family-planning work they did.

In 2001, on his second day in office, President Bush reinstated the ban.  (Are you noticing a political trend here?)

In 2003, President Bush ran into a slight problem:  he wanted to implement HIV/AIDS programs, but the organizations that delivered the HIV/AIDS treatments were the same organizations that were blacklisted by the Mexico City policy.  He partially overturned the ban.

And in 2009, President Obama, in what was a largely predictable move, overturned the ban entirely.

So why is it that I think it is a great thing?

First of all, I believe that this ban actually increases the number of abortions in the countries where funding for family planning services is reduced.  When there are fewer ways for women to prevent pregnancy – either through education on their fertility cycles, birth control pills, condoms, or even sterilization, women are more likely to get pregnant when they do not want to be pregnant.

Moreover, and perhaps this is something that is woefully missing from the American discourse on the topic, Americans tend to view things through their own, distorted, American lenses.  Here in America, we go to the grocery store and we have the option of 18 different types of potato chips to buy:  expensive ones, cheap ones, generic ones, organic ones.  If we get into a medical crisis, we can head over to our local emergency room and get at least basic medical care, even without health insurance.  We have luxuries that those in developing countries cannot fathom.

More than that, however, WOMEN in America have the rights that are simply unfathomable in many developing countries.  We have the right to articulate our needs.  We have the right to articulate the terms and conditions of our sexual relationships.  When those rights are not respected, we have a legal system that can prosecute offenders and advocate on our behalf.  This is not to say it is ALWAYS the case, but the system is in place.

This is not the case in many resource-poor countries.

Women often have no ability to negotiate the terms of their sexual contacts, even within marriage.  There are often situations when their spouse has been engaging in unprotected sex with other women, but he comes home and refuses to use a condom in sexual contact with her.

Women have no defense against the scourge of AIDS, and they often do not have the resources to support the children they already have.  Adding another child to the mix is simply unfathomable.

My point is this:  the organizations denied funding under the Mexico City policy are often providing valuable, righteous, services.  They are providing support and funding to women in the most desperate of situations.

When the U.S. withholds funding for political, not moral, reasons, those organizations simply look elsewhere for funding, or make do with less.  And the victims in this situation?  Are women, who seek more dangerous methods for controlling their fertility in instances when the more traditional routes have failed.  At their worst, these dangerous methods can kill women, leaving other children motherless. In many, if not most, countries, HIV/AIDS treatment is delivered through the same organizations as the family planning organizations, leaving women with no options for HIV/AIDS treatment – often for a virus they contracted through absolutely no fault of their own.  The victims there?  The women, who will most likely die, and their children, who may have contracted the virus themselves and will most certainly become the heads of their very, very young households.

The U.S.  is a wealthy, privileged country.  We have no idea how privileged we are until we examine the situation elsewhere, and realize that many of our political stances are simply the product of what is actually an entitled position.

It simply makes no sense.

Above all, when I think of this, I think of this Bible verse, which I decided to take from the Message because it really boils it down:

34-36“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

37-40“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

Now, this may seem like an odd verse to use, since it is often employed by the National Right to Life crowd.  But why don’t we think about it this way: who, exactly, ARE the least of these?  The mother, dying of a virus she contracted through her committed relationship with her spouse?  Her children, who are hungry and clammoring for food, when there simply isn’t enough to go around?  And the unborn, who truly should never have been conceived?  These organizations help to PREVENT pregnancy.  Shouldn’t it be every woman’s right to control her fertility?

And moreover, how do we know what we’d do, if we were HIV+, poor, and pregnant with our 10th child?  Until we’ve walked in her shoes, how do we know the best decision?  To presume that we do know is entirely entitled and short-sighted.  I know what I would like to think I would do – but I do *not* know what I would *have* to do.

Life is precious from conception to natural (not famine-inflicted, or disease-afflicted) death.  It is not only precious from conception to birth.  The moment we begin to celebrate life, and ensure that life is valued and cherished and supported from viable birth until death, is the moment we can begin to have petty political arguments about the morality of funds overseas.

Until then, I choose to celebrate every decision that values the marginalized.