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Bush Further Limits Funds for Groups Counseling Abortion

The order aimed at international agencies exempts beneficiaries of his AIDS relief plan.

August 30, 2003|Edwin Chen | Times Staff Writer

CRAWFORD, Texas — President Bush on Friday imposed new restrictions on U.S. funding for international family-planning groups that counsel abortion, but he exempted agencies in Africa and the Caribbean that would benefit from his global AIDS initiative.

Shortly after taking office in 2001, Bush ordered the U.S. Agency for International Development to stop providing aid to international organizations that provide abortion counseling. In his new executive order, Bush specified that all other family-planning grants funneled through the State Department also must abide by that restriction.

Bush said he was expanding his 2001 order "because family-planning grants are awarded by the Department of State outside of USAID, as well as through USAID."

USAID is the principal agency that assists countries recovering from disaster, trying to overcome poverty and undertaking democratic reforms. It is an independent federal agency but receives overall guidance from the secretary of State.

The new order's reach could not be immediately ascertained. But a U.S. official said the president's action would affect only a small number of programs and was issued to keep policy consistent across the government.

Bush has argued that United States taxpayer money should not be used to help finance international groups whose programs include abortion counseling.

His move upset abortion-rights groups.

"It's clearly yet another sign of the triumph of far-right ideology in the Bush administration -- in this case, putting the absolute commitment to ideological purity ahead of programs that can prevent literally millions of unintended pregnancies," said David Seldin, a spokesman for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The order Bush issued when he took office barred U.S. money going to international groups that use their own funds to support abortion, either by performing the procedure, counseling it as a family-planning option or lobbying foreign governments on abortion policy.

In doing so, the president reinstated the so-called Mexico City policy that was put in place in 1986 by President Reagan. The policy was rescinded by President Clinton in 1993.

Earlier this year, in a shift, Bush decided to allow social service agencies in Africa and the Caribbean region to receive U.S. funds under his $15-billion emergency AIDS relief plan, even if they promote family planning and provide abortions. But that provision stated that such organizations must use the U.S. funds for treating people with HIV/AIDS.

A flat-out ban on funding to such organizations would have proved counterproductive if the president wanted his high-profile initiative to be effective, administration officials said at the time.

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Times wire services were used in compiling this report.

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