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The BBC's Philippa Thomas in Washington
"The decision will cut off funds from international groups offering abortion services"
 real 56k

The BBC's Paul Reynolds in Washington
"President Bush undid what President Clinton had done in his second day in office"
 real 28k

Family planning campaigner Dr Pramilla Senanaya
"We cannot accept the US terms for their funding"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 23 January, 2001, 00:04 GMT
Bush blocks abortion funding
George W Bush
Bush does not want taxpayers' money to fund abortions
The new US President, George W Bush, has signed an executive order cutting off federal funding to international agencies which support women seeking an abortion.

The executive order was one of President Bush's first decisions since taking office on Saturday.

Abortion march in Washington
Thousands attended the 28th march marking the anniversary of Roe vs Wade
The move, reversing the policy of the Clinton administration, was timed to support thousands of anti-abortion protesters rallying in Washington to mark the 28th anniversary of the US Supreme Court's Roe vs Wade decision to legalise abortion.

"It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortion, either here or abroad," Mr Bush wrote in his executive memorandum.


Family planning groups reacted with dismay to Mr Bush's decision.

Abortion-rights supporter Kate Michelman said: "He clearly is bending to the will of the far right on these issues. He so quickly shed his facade and his cloak of moderation on this issue."

International family planning groups also criticised the decision, but abortion opponents welcomed it.

"This means that the US Government will no longer be using taxpayer dollars to try to legalise abortion in countries in Latin America, Africa and Muslim countries in which the people are strongly opposed to abortion," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee.

New White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was grilled about the decision at his first daily news briefing.

Focusing efforts

Mr Fleischer made it clear that Bush planned no early assault on Roe vs Wade.

"I think the president's efforts are going to focus immediately on those things that we can get done. There is a series of steps we can take to make abortion rare. That includes promotion of adoption, and so his focus will be there," he said.

President Bush's top priority for the week is to send Congress his education proposals.

These include:

  • introducing more student testing
  • punishing and rewarding states depending on pupil performance
  • spending $5bn to improve literacy over five years.
Tax cuts

A $1.3 trillion tax-cut proposal is also on the agenda, but a BBC Washington correspondent says that with the Senate split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, and with some in his own party feeling that the tax cuts are too ambitious, Mr Bush may have trouble getting the whole package through.

Two US senators, one a Republican, Phil Gramm, and the other a Democrat, Zell Miller, announced jointly on Monday, that they would launch a bill based on the tax cut plan.

"We want to see working Americans have an opportunity to benefit from the huge (budget) surpluses that we have today," said Texas Senator Phil Gramm, a close Bush ally.

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See also:

22 Jan 01 | Americas
The history of Roe vs Wade
21 Jan 01 | Americas
Bush stamps his authority
20 Jan 01 | Americas
Doubts remain about Florida vote
20 Jan 01 | UK Politics
'No change' in US-UK relations
14 Dec 00 | Education
Testing times ahead for US schools
12 Aug 99 | Health
More abortions 'mean less crime'
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