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Groups react to abortion-funds ban reversal

Tess Civantos | Wednesday, February 4, 2009

In one of his first acts as president, Barack Obama signed an executive order on Jan. 23 that put a stop to the so-called Mexico City policy.

The overturned policy prohibited U.S. government funding from going to clinics or groups that provide abortion-related services or that lobby for abortion in other countries.

Mary Daly, president of Notre Dame’s Right to Life Club, said, she originally thought the policy’s end would mean that the U.S. would begin funding abortions.

“When I first heard that Obama overturned the policy, I thought it meant we would start giving money to fund abortions. Really, though, it’s more that … organizations that receive government funding are no longer banned from promoting and providing abortions,” she said. “There’s no movement of money, just a ban lifted.”

With this act, Obama is failing to live up to his campaign promises, Daly said.

“Whenever the topic of abortion came up on the campaign trail, Obama said he would enact policies to reduce the number of abortions,” Daly said.

“In his first week, though, he has already allowed federal money to fund abortions [in other countries]. There’s no way that overturning this ban fulfills that assertion,” she said.

Mandy Lewis, co-president of Feminist Voice, said her group has no policy on abortion, but offered her own opinion.

“Feminist Voice does not take an official stance on abortion, but personally, I don’t think it’s fair to cut off aid because of the abortion issue,” she said.

Lewis supports Obama’s decision to lift the ban.

“I think abortions should be reduced. I don’t see a problem with Obama’s decision,” she said.

Lewis also wrote in an e-mail: “Research suggests that actively addressing social problems … is more likely to result in fewer abortions than just banning funding to groups that, among other services, provide access to abortions. Obama seems to understand that concept, and we support our president as he tries to tackle the serious social problems that face him.”

While Obama’s act may be an effort to solve social issues, his decision hurts the American economy, Daly said.

“Economically speaking, this is a huge problem because right now we don’t have any money to spend anywhere,” Daly said.

President Reagan first enacted the Mexico City policy, so named because it was unveiled at a United Nations conference in the Mexican capital city, in 1984.

The policy has historically been instated by Republican presidents and rescinded by Democrat presidents. President George H. W. Bush kept it in place. President Bill Clinton rescinded the rule in 1993, and President George W. Bush reinstated it in 2001.

Critics refer to the policy as the “global gag rule” because they consider its restrictions a violation of free speech.