Obama lifts Bush ban on overseas abortion-funding

January 24th, 2009 - 9:54 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 24 (IANS) Overturning another Bush administration policy through executive order, President Barack Obama has annulled a ban on sending US funds to groups that perform or promote abortion overseas.An executive order signed by Obama Friday reverses the so-called “Mexico City policy,” initiated by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, cancelled by President Bill Clinton and reinstated by President George W. Bush in 2001.

The order comes the day after the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalising abortion in the United States.

The policy, referred to by critics as “the global gag rule,” was initially announced at a population conference in Mexico City.

The policy says that any organization receiving US family planning funds from the US Agency for International Development cannot offer abortions or abortion counselling.

Reversing the previous administrations’ stance on the policy was one of Clinton’s first acts as president in January 1993 and the very first executive order issued by Bush Jan 22, 2001, the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Critics, including Planned Parenthood, called Bush’s move a “legislative ambush.”

He defended his action, saying: “It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortion or actively promote abortion.”

The group Population Action International praised Obama’s move, saying in a statement that it will “save women’s lives around the world.”

“Family planning should not be a political issue; it’s about basic health care and well-being for women and children,” the group said.

But Republican lawmakers were critical of the new president’s action. “Not even waiting a week, the new administration has acted to funnel US tax dollars to abortion providers overseas,” said Representative Tom Price.

“This is a stunning reversal of course from the president’s campaign statements that he hoped to reduce the number of abortions,” he said.

“Just a day after thousands of Americans came to Washington to celebrate the principle of life, President Obama has made it clear that reducing abortions is not one of his priorities.”

Obama has always said he supports a woman’s right to choose but has advocated better education and wider availability of contraception to reduce the number of abortions through decreasing the number of unwanted pregnancies.

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