The debate over whether US relief money should go to programs that teach abstinence versus family planning and birth control continues. Since 1984, there has been a restriction called the Mexico City Policy, better known as the ‘global gag rule.’ The global gag rule prohibits U.S. family planning assistance to foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide certain birth control-related information or services, despite an adverse effect on HIV/AIDS prevalence rates. This is even the case if these services are legal in their own countries and are funded with their own money. The rule prevents NGOs from even participating in public debates or speaking out on issues concerning certain types of birth control. The primary affect of this policy is that it forces foreign organizations to choose between the laws of their own country and U.S. policy in order to obtain critical U.S. funding to fight HIV/AIDS. Not to mention its affect on limiting reproductive health services for women, thus putting their lives and health in danger.

In recent weeks this debate has been the center of attention as Congress reconvened this month to discuss whether to expand access to US-donated contraceptive supplies overseas by easing current restrictions in the global gag rule and to discuss the 2008 foreign aid spending, specifically, as it deals with HIV/AIDS. If there is an ease in the global gag rule this would open up more funding to be available not just for abstinence teaching but also for the provision of condoms and other forms of family planning. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control, condom use has a direct link to significantly lowering ones risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

AFJN members approved a resolution in 2005, inspired by Bishop Kevin Dowling of South Africa. The HIV resolution calls on the Church to accept the use of condoms to prevent HIV infection and thus to save lives. Although AFJN holds to the teaching of scripture that one should remain abstinent before marriage and faithful within marriage, AFJN also recognizes, as stated in the 2006 “Resolution on HIV/AIDS Prevention,” that a person infected with the HIV virus has the capability through sexual relations of transmitting the death-causing virus to another person and that people infected with HIV will have sexual relations with non-infected spouses, partners and victims, whether the Church approves or not. In fact, women are often forced by culture or by rape into having sex with a spouse or an abuser infected with HIV. The global gag rule condemns the use of condoms, despite the fact that their proper and consistent use has been shown to significantly curtail HIV/AIDS infection rates.

(For more information on the global gag rule visit: Gag Rule )

By Barbie Fischer