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Abortion funds ban lifted by Obama

26th January 2009

US president Barack Obama has signed a bill ending the Bush administration's ban regarding abortion funding.

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Pro-choice groups were happy about the decision, while pro-life groups criticised it.

Known as the "Mexico City policy", the ban has gone through a reinstatement and a reversal since it was established by Ronald Reagan more than twenty years ago.

In 1993, Bill Clinton ended the ban, but George Bush reinstituted it as when he took office in 2001.

Obama's spokesman Bill Burton said that the president signed an order doing away with the ban.

There was no media coverage for the event, in contrast to the fanfare of Obama's executive orders on other subjects.

Under the Bush administration, US taxpayer money was restricted to international family planning groups that did not provide abortions or offer information about them.

Federal funding was also restricted to groups that did not lobby for its legalisation or promotion.

Both Obama and Hillary Clinton had promised to do away with the policy during the campaign.

Since part of her job will be to oversee foreign aid, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be directly involved with the application of funds.

Obama may also restore funding to the related UN Population Fund, or UNFPA, in the next year's budget.

The Bush administration had previously decided that support for the UNFPA violates US law.

US money was withheld from the fund when the Bush administration made claims that the UNFPA supported coercive abortions and involuntary sterilisations in China, which the group has denied.

The reversal caused celebration among organisations that had pressed for the change.

Ted Preston of Population Action International said that women's health has been severely impacted by the cut-off of assistance, and that Obama's actions will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, abortions and women dying from high-risk pregnancies.

Anti-abortion groups criticised the move.

Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee said that Obama is effectively guaranteeing more abortions by funding groups that promote abortion as a method of population control, though he not long ago told the Americans that he would support policies to reduce them.

Obama is expected also to lift a ban on federal funding of stem-cell research, an issue that divides people along similar lines, and which scientists believe will lead to new treatments of diseases.

 

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