Statement of President Barack Obama on Rescinding the Mexico City Policy

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                            January 23, 2009
Statement of President Barack Obama on Rescinding the Mexico CityPolicy“It is clear that the provisions of the Mexico City Policy are unnecessarily broad and unwarranted under current law, and for the past eight years, they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries.  For these reasons, it is right for us to rescind this policy and restore critical efforts to protect and empower women and promote global economic development.

“For too long, international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back and forth debate that has served only to divide us.  I have no desire to continue this stale and fruitless debate.

“It is time that we end the politicization of this issue.  In the coming weeks, my Administration will initiate a fresh conversation on family planning, working to find areas of common ground to best meet the needs of women and families at home and around the world.
“I have directed my staff to reach out to those on all sides of this issue to achieve the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies.  They will also work to promote safe motherhood, reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and increase educational and economic opportunities for women and girls.
“In addition, I look forward to working with Congress to restore support for the U.N. Population Fund.  By resuming funding to UNFPA, the U.S. will be joining 180 other donor nations working collaboratively to reduce poverty, improve the health of women and children, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide family planning assistance to women in 154 countries,” said President Obama.
SUBJECT:      Mexico CityPolicy and Assistance for
Voluntary Population Planning
The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151b(f)(1)), prohibits nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that receive Federal funds from using those funds “to pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning, or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.”  The August 1984 announcement by President Reagan of what has become known as the “Mexico City Policy” directed the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to expand this limitation and withhold USAID funds from NGOs that use non-USAID funds to engage in a wide range of activities, including providing advice, counseling, or information regarding abortion, or lobbying a foreign government to legalize or make abortion available.  The Mexico City Policy was in effect from 1985 until 1993, when it was rescinded by President Clinton.  President George W. Bush reinstated the policy in 2001, implementing it through conditions in USAID grant awards, and subsequently extended the policy to “voluntary population planning” assistance provided by the Department of State.
These excessively broad conditions on grants and assistance awards are unwarranted.  Moreover, they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning programs in foreign nations.  Accordingly, I hereby revoke the Presidential memorandum of January 22, 2001, for the Administrator of USAID (Restoration of the Mexico City Policy), the Presidential memorandum of March 28, 2001, for the Administrator of USAID (Restoration of the Mexico City Policy), and the Presidential memorandum of August 29, 2003, for the Secretary of State (Assistance for Voluntary Population Planning).  In addition, I direct the Secretary of State and the Administrator of USAID to take the following actions with respect to conditions in voluntary population planning assistance and USAID grants that were imposed pursuant to either the 2001 or 2003 memoranda and that are not required by the Foreign Assistance Act or any other law:  (1) immediately waive such conditions in any current grants, and (2) notify current grantees, as soon as possible, that these conditions have been waived.  I further direct that the Department of State and USAID immediately cease imposing these conditions in any future grants.
This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
The Secretary of State is authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in theFederal Register.
THE WHITE HOUSE, January 23, 2009.

Legal Action Targets New HHS Regulation

HARTFORD, CT, Jan. 15Family planning supporters today took legal action here to overturn a new regulation that gives hospitals, health aides and even clinic receptionists veto power over women’s health care needs. The National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, represented by the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and Planned Parenthood of Connecticut filed separate lawsuits in U.S. District Court challenging the Bush administration’s Health Care Denial Rule. Additionally, the Connecticut attorney general, joined by the attorney generals of California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Rhode Island filed a separate, but parallel legal action challenging the rule.
“The courts must strike down this unconscionable, unconstitutional last-minute midnight rule, a final swipe by the Bush administration at women’s health rights,” Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement. “The federal government is impermissibly interfering with carefully crafted and balanced state measures protecting patients and women, particularly rape victims who may require immediate access to emergency contraception.”
Mary Jane Gallagher, president and CEO of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), said the new Health and Human Services Department rule unconstitutionally endangers women’s health, exceeds HHS’ authority and clearly goes beyond the intent of Congress.


For more information, contact Nicole Tidwell at or at 202.326.8710.

On the topic of Violence Against Women from Secretary of State designee Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s confirmation hearings 1/13/09

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Senator BOXER:
“…..I don’t think we can look away from the plight in women in the world….Nicholas Kristof confronts these issues in a series of compelling articles. In one, he tells us about the recent acid attack against young girls in Afghanistan, where they’re going to school with their teachers…..He profiles a story……of a Pakistani woman who was viciously burned by her husband with acid because she dared to divorce him……..Thousands of women have suffered similar attacks throughout Asia, and no prosecutions, senator. Kristof tells us the story of a Vietnamese girl named Sina Vann who was kidnapped at age 13; she was sold into sex slavery in Cambodia. When she refused to see customers, she was tortured brutally with electric shocks and locked in a coffin full of insects. And Kristof illustrates an act of horrific brutality in a piece called “If This Isn’t Slavery, What Is?” in which a young Cambodian girl had her eye gouged out by her brothel owner after taking time off to recover from a forced abortion…….No woman or girl should ever have to live in fear or face persecution for being born female.”

Senator CLINTON: “……I have been honored to be your colleague and your partner in a number of these efforts that have been undertaken on behalf of women around the world.  And I want to pledge to you that as secretary of state I view these issues as central to our foreign policy, not as adjunct or auxiliary or in any way lesser than all of the other issues that we have to confront. I, too, have followed the stories that are exemplified by the pictures that you held up. I mean, it is heartbreaking beyond words that, you know, young girls are attacked on their way to school by Taliban sympathizers and members who do not want young women to be educated. It’s not complicated: They want to maintain an attitude that keeps women, as I said in my testimony, unhealthy, unfed, uneducated.  And this is something that results all too often in violence against these young women, both within their families and from the outside. This is not culture. This is not custom. This is criminal. And it will be my hope to persuade more governments, as I have attempted to do since I spoke at Beijing on these issues, you know, 13 and some years ago, that we cannot have a free, prosperous, peaceful, progressive world if women are treated in such a discriminatory and violent way…..I take very seriously the function of the State Department to lead our government through the Office on Human Trafficking to do all that we can to end this modern form of slavery. We have sex slavery, we have wage slavery, and it is primarily a slavery of girls and women……we’re going to have a very active women’s office, a very active office on trafficking. We’re going to be speaking out consistently and strongly against discrimination and oppression of women and slavery in particular, because I think that is in keeping not only with American values, as we all recognize, but American national security interests as well.”

Senator BOXER: “…..I wanted to note, Mr. Chairman, that even the most conservative historians have said that if women in the world could be allowed to live up to their potential it would bring the whole world forward. A lot of the problems we face really come from this mindset that half of the population doesn’t matter and can be abused. And they’re ignored or hurt and can’t contribute.”

Full Transcript <>

Israeli & Palestinian Women Call for End to Military Action & for Peace

Dear friends–
Beacuse women expreience the pain of conflict, The International Women’s Commission (IWC) which is an entity dedicated to bring together Palestinian, Israeli and international women  to
an end of the Israeli occupation and a just peace based on international law [including relevant UN resolutions], human rights and equality issued the following statement.

“The IWC is a coalition of Palestinian, Israeli and international women who recognize the urgent need to achieve a meaningful peace between Israelis and Palestinians and feel a shared commitment to accomplish this goal. Participation in the IWC is grounded in mutual respect for diversity and the rights and dignity of all parties. ”


December 29, 2008

Israeli and Palestinian Women Call for Immediate End to Israeli Military Aggression in Gaza

The International Women’s Commission (IWC) for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian–Israeli Peace demands an immediate cessation of the aggression by the Israeli military forces in Gaza, which has already cost hundreds of lives. This slaughter can only further fuel the conflict and quash any remaining hope for peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people. The IWC calls on the international community, and specifically the Quartet, to immediately deploy an international force to bring an end to this madness, to protect innocent civilians and to alleviate the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The IWC further appeals to the Quartet, and in particular to the incoming US Administration, to press for immediate resumption of peace negotiations based on the Arab Peace Initiative as the only way of bringing an end to the occupation and achieving sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine, and in the region. On behalf of IWC Members: Palestinian Steering Committee
Wafa‘ Abdel-Rahman
Maha Abu-Dayyeh Shamas
Samia Bamieh
Lama Hourani Israeli Steering Committee
Naomi Chazan
Galia Golan
Anat Saragusti
Aida Touma-Sliman International Steering Committee
Sylvia Borren
Luisa Morgantini
Jessica Neuwirth
Simone Susskind The International Women’s Commission for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian–Israeli Peace (IWC) <>  comprises Palestinian, Israeli and international women leaders. It was established in 2005 under the auspices of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) as part of efforts to implement UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. For more information:

  • UNIFEM IWC International Coordinator: Tel: +32 2 213-1444. Fax: +32 2 213-1449.
  • IWC Israeli Coordinator: Tel: +972 54 225-6633. Fax: +972 2 563-7633.
  • IWC Palestinian +972 2 297-4650.


Californians Shape Up as Force on Environmental Policy


by: Lyndsey Layton, The Washington Post,  TRUTHOUT, December 31, 2008

(Check out our WIN Weblog ( for this article and comment – how will you be involved in this environmental policy making effort in California?   )

California Democrats will assume pivotal roles in the new Congress and White House, giving the state an outsize influence over federal policy and increasing the likelihood that its culture of activist regulation will be imported to Washington.

In Congress, Democrats from the Golden State are in key positions to write laws to mitigate global warming, promote “green” industries and alternative energy, and crack down on toxic chemicals. Down Pennsylvania Avenue, Californians in the new White House will shape environmental, energy and workplace safety policies.

“It’s unique in terms of the power of this state in modern times,” said James A. Thurber, who directs the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. To find another example of a state wielding such national influence, Thurber had to reach back to Texas in the 1950s, when Sam Rayburn was the House speaker and Lyndon B. Johnson was the Senate majority leader.

The current speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is the most prominent member of the California delegation. As leader of a sometimes fractious caucus, Pelosi has had to find common ground between conservative and liberal Democrats. But she has been firm about her intention to bring the kind of climate-change legislation embraced by California to the national level, and she was quietly supportive when a California colleague, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, pushed out Rep. John D. Dingell of Michigan to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In a November caucus election, Waxman narrowly beat Dingell, who held the chair for 16 years and was seen by critics as too protective of the auto industry. Waxman, who has crafted an image as a champion of consumers, taxpayers and the environment, takes over next month. Energy and Commerce handles more than half of the legislation that flows through Congress. Its sprawling portfolio includes climate change, air quality and health matters – issues that have consumed policymakers in California.

Waxman’s counterpart in the Senate is Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee. “California has always valued protecting the environment and health and safety of our people,” Boxer said in a telephone interview. “The people from California who are coming here to work on this and Congressman Waxman and myself, we are very strong on this.”

Obama has chosen Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be energy secretary, and he tapped Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Nancy Sutley to run the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality. Obama also selected Rep. Hilda L. Solis, a Democrat from Los Angeles, to become labor secretary, charged with enforcing workplace safety laws, among other duties. And Christina D. Romer, a University of California at Berkeley economist, will chair the Council of Economic Advisers.

One longtime Capitol Hill observer cautioned that although these Californians are in key positions to shape federal policy, they don’t necessarily share a single California philosophy. Still, they have been shaped by experience in a state that has led the nation in regulatory policy.

Since the 1970s, when it became the first state in the country to set its own auto emissions standards under the federal Clean Air Act, California has been considered a trendsetter.

When the state tried last year to set tougher emissions standards that would cut tailpipe emissions by 30 percent by 2016, 12 other states followed suit. The Bush administration denied the states, which are hoping the Obama administration or the new Congress will reverse that decision.

After the state banned a class of chemicals, phthalates, from children’s products last year, 12 states introduced similar bans.

This month, California regulators took the initial steps toward the nation’s first comprehensive plan to curb greenhouse gases. The strategy creates a system of trading pollution permits and cutting emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Details of the plan are still under development. The next day, state regulators approved the most stringent rules in the country governing emissions from diesel trucks and buses.

The California ban on phthalates inspired Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.) to successfully push for a federal prohibition, which takes effect in February. It is a rarity – the first time Congress has banned a chemical in decades – and it faced stiff and well-financed opposition from Exxon Mobil, which makes one of the banned chemicals.

Even though Feinstein was not on the conference committee that resolved differences between House and Senate versions of the legislation, she worked behind the scenes to make sure the phthalates ban stayed in the final version, said Janet Nudelman of the Breast Cancer Fund, which pushed the bill.

“She made it clear that phthalates wasn’t ‘trade bait’ between negotiators,” Nudelman said. “The phthalates ban was an example of Feinstein, Boxer and Waxman literally reaching across houses to strategize and secure passage of a very controversial piece of legislation that no one thought had a chance of passing.”

Boxer said the public should not expect a flood of new legislation modeled on California statutes, but rather a renewed effort to enforce existing consumer protection and workplace safety rules and environmental laws.

“It’s not a question of passing new landmark laws,” Boxer said. “It’s a matter of getting these agencies back in gear. We have great tools, but they have not been functioning. For the past eight years, they’ve been sitting idle. The Californians coming, they don’t have to rewrite the laws. They just have to enforce them. It’s like the EPA has been asleep for eight years. The Californians are coming to wake the sleeping beauty.”

Still, there will be revisions to existing laws and some new bills. Environmentalists and industry expect Waxman, Boxer, Pelosi, Sutley and the others to take on the oil and gas companies.

Barbara Sinclair, a political scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, said the Californians are pragmatic and mindful of overreaching. “All these folks really want to make policy change,” she said. “On the other hand, they very, very much want to stay in power.” The most ambitious effort is likely to be a cap-and- trade bill that will sell emissions permits to industry with the aim of reducing carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Boxer introduced a version that died after debate in June. She intends to introduce a revised version in the new Congress, probably in concert with Waxman, who had written his own climate-change bill in the last session.

Waxman and Boxer joined Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) in sponsoring the Kids Safe Chemicals Act in the last Congress and plan to reintroduce it in the new year. The legislation seeks to reform chemical policy to require industry to prove chemicals are safe before they are used in commerce. Currently, the government must prove that a chemical is unsafe before it can be pulled from the market. The Lautenberg bill would put the burden on industry to prove a chemical’s safety. The bill is modeled after a law in Europe but follows the same approach as a “green chemistry” law passed by California earlier this year.

Roger Martella, a former EPA general counsel who is an attorney for many corporations affected by environmental regulation, calls Waxman, Pelosi and Boxer a “trifecta” that could craft significant new government action.

“Whether at the end of the day every policy that California has gets implemented on a national level is a matter for debate,” Martella said. “At the same time, we’d be foolish to ignore those stars are lining up.”