(photo credit: AP)
US President Barack Obama on Friday continued his march to reverse contentious Bush administration policies, ending the ban on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide information about it.
Liberal groups welcomed Obama's decision on the abortion funding ban, while abortion rights foes criticized the president. The abortion measure is a highly emotional one for many people, and Obama's action came one day after the 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.
Critics have long held that the rule unfairly discriminates against the world's poor by denying US aid to groups that may be involved in abortion but also work on other aspects of reproductive health care and HIV/AIDS, leading to the closure of free and low-cost rural clinics.
Supporters of the ban say that the United States still provides millions of dollars in family planning assistance around the world and that the rule prevents anti-abortion taxpayers from backing something they believe is morally wrong.
The Bush policy reversed by Obama had banned US taxpayer money, usually in the form of Agency for International Development funds, from going to international family planning groups that either offer abortions or provide information, counseling or referrals about abortion. The rule also had prohibited federal funding for groups that lobby to legalize abortion or promote it as a family planning method.
Both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will oversee foreign aid, had promised to do away with the rule during the presidential campaign.
"This policy has made it more difficult for women around the world to gain access to essential information and healthcare services," Clinton said in a statement.
"Rather than limiting women's ability to receive reproductive health services, we should be supporting programs that help women and their partners make decisions to ensure their health and the health of their families."
Known as the "Mexico City policy," the inflammatory ban has been reinstated and then reversed by Republican and Democratic presidents since Ronald Reagan established it in 1984.