Obama Lifts Ban on Overseas Abortion Funding
President Obama signed the executive order one day after the 36th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in all 50 states.
Friday, January 23, 2009
President Obama on Friday lifted a ban on federal funding for international groups that promote or perform abortions, reversing a policy of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
Obama signed the executive order one day after the 36th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in all 50 states.
Liberal groups welcomed the decision while abortion rights foes criticized the president, who was long expected to make this move during his first week in office.
The so-called Mexico City policy requires any non-governmental organization to agree before receiving U.S. funds that they will "neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations."
It is also known as the "global gag rule," because it prohibits taxpayer funding for groups that even talk about abortion if there is an unplanned pregnancy.
The policy was first instituted by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and continued by President George H.W. Bush. The policy was reversed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, and re-instated by President George W. Bush in 2001.
Both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will oversee foreign aid, had promised to do away with the gag rule during the presidential campaign. Clinton is to visit the U.S. Agency for International Development, through which much U.S. foreign aid is disbursed, later on Friday.
Organizations that had pressed Obama to make the abortion-ban change were jubilant.
"Women's health has been severely impacted by the cutoff of assistance. "President Obama's actions will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, abortions and women dying from high-risk pregnancies because they don't have access to family planning," said Tod Preston, a spokesman for Population Action International, an advocacy group.
Anti-abortion groups criticized the move.
"President Obama not long ago told the American people that he would support policies to reduce abortions, but today he is effectively guaranteeing more abortions by funding groups that promote abortion as a method of population control," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee.
Obama has spent his first days in office systematically signing executive orders reversing Bush administration policies on issues ranging from foreign policy to government operations. On Thursday, he signed three executive orders to rein in secretive U.S. counterterror policies and end harsh interrogations.
FOX News' Major Garrett and the Associated Press contributed to this report.