January 23, 2009

Taking the Gag Off

{Your author 8 years ago playing my dream guitar - what a hippie}

When Bush was elected the first time I was a senior at Ball State University with an English major and a minor in Women's Studies. Now, I believe, this is referred to as Gender Studies and you can not only major in it, which was not available to us then, but get your masters in it. I was not just a student, but I interned in the school's office and was there as much as possible. It became a very important part of my life. I was in that office the first full day of Bush's presidency and maybe that's why I can remember the moment I heard that his first action while in office was to cut funding to hundreds of organizations that provided money to family planning clinics all over the world, which became known as the Global Gag Rule. 

These clinics provided contraception, abortion services and vital women's health care for millions of women across the world. But more importantly they provide knowledge, which is the only way diseases like HIV/AIDS stop spreading. What a slap in the face to women everywhere, that this was one of his first actions as President. I remember how our mood in that office grew from incensed to sad to frightened at what the next (at least) four years would bring to us, this country and the world. It turns out we had great reason to be afraid.

But now that is behind us and while we can not erase all of the new cases of HIV/AIDS that may have been prevented or the starving children that will die of diseases because their parents can not care for them, we can move forward. President Obama (I LOVE saying that) took that first step today by overturning the global gag rule and returning the funding to UNFPA and other vital organizations. 

Population and, by proxy, disease control may be our biggest environmental challenges and it won't come by forced rules or laws. It comes from education. 

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