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Bush Reverses Clinton on Some Abortion Funding

  • President Bush supported a rally of mostly middle-class demonstrators protesting the anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision to approve abortion on demand.
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By James P. Tucker Jr.

They called for the right to life in Washington on Jan. 22, the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and President Bush heard and responded.

There has been a "March for Life" every year on the anniversary of the Supreme Court discovering a constitutional "right" to abortions on demand.

President Bush responded promptly by blocking U.S. funds from going to international organizations that provide "family planning" and abortions overseas. His action cancelled orders by former President Bill Clinton providing tax dollars to such organizations.

Political games

Legislation granting federal funds to international groups that promote abortions has always been controversial.

In 1993, just after taking office, Clin ton signed legislation ending restrictions on the funding. Six years later, however, Clinton reversed himself, agreeing to prevent money from going to these groups in return for Congress appropriating money to pay more than $900 million to the United Nations.

In 2000, Clinton reversed himself again, freeing up the restrictions on the money. But in order to avoid a heated campaign battle, Clinton agreed that his contentious change would not take effect until after the next administration took office Feb. 15 of this year.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) read a statement by Bush to protesters outside the Supreme Court:

"We share a great goal: to work toward a day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law. We know this will not come easily or all at once."


Marchers expressed the view that Bush's election may have turned the tide in their favor.

"For me, it is a special time," said Sylvia Nuniz, 71, of New Orleans. She said she firmly believes Bush will stop abortions. "Oh yes, he's an honest man."

Can Bush roll back the Supreme Court's abortion ruling?

"Not necessarily abortion as a whole," said Cathryn Pracht of Greenbelt, Md. "I think he will have a tremendous effect on partial-birth abortions."

When president, Clinton twice vetoed legislation banning partial-birth abortions, in which a live baby is delivered feet-first until all but the head is out of the birth canal. As the baby's arms flail and legs kick, the physician stabs the head, sucks out the brain with a vacuum and squeezes the head until it is small. This prevents stitches for the mother.

Bush has said that he will sign legislation banning partial-birth abortions if it reaches his desk.

"It's about time the United States took a positive approach," said Sister Joanne of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, an order in Ann Arbor, Mich. "And that begins with life."

Polls show that Americans are split down the middle on abortion, with most showing that Americans support limiting abortion on demand.