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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, 14:18 GMT
EU condemns Bush abortion move
Anti-abortion march
Anti-abortion campaigners have applauded the decision
The European Union has criticised the new US President, George W Bush, for blocking federal funding for international groups that perform or advocate abortion.

US public opinion
59% support abortion in all or most cases
14% say it should be illegal in all cases
46% of Republicans support abortion in most cases
Source: ABC News-Washington Post poll
Anna Diamantopoulou, EU Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner, described the move as a setback for women's rights.

Ms Diamantopoulou said: "It's a step backwards...The European Union can't influence Bush, but we can express our disappointment."

On Monday, his first working day in office, Mr Bush reimposed a ban on the use of US federal funds for overseas groups that perform or advocate abortions.

"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," he said.

George W Bush
George W Bush: Also reviewing funding for abortion pill
The move coincided with the annual march in Washington of anti-abortion campaigners protesting against the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion across the US.

It was condemned by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which said women should have access to safe abortions and that it was immoral for the US to impose on other countries a policy it did not apply at home.

Abortion rights groups in the US have also attacked the decision.

Patricia Ireland, President of the National Organization for Women, said: "George W Bush has ripped away any remnant of a moderate mask that he wore during the election."

And Ann Stone, national chairman of Republicans For Choice, said: "He's supposed to be measuring for drapes on his first day, not interfering with women's rights."

A ban on federal funding for groups that perform or advocate abortion was originally introduced by Ronald Reagan in 1984. It was maintained by George Bush senior, but reversed by Bill Clinton in 1993.

Risk of dividing Congress

Another candidate for a federal funding ban is the RU-486 abortion pill, which Mr Bush is reviewing. Anti-abortion campaigners also want a ban on federal funding for research involving foetal tissue or the destruction of human embryos, including stem cell research.

However, some commentators say the controversy surrounding the issue risks complicating efforts to win backing from both sides of a divided Congress for the president's top two priorities: education legislation and tax cuts.

A new ABC News-Washington Post poll suggests that most Americans are broadly supportive of current abortion laws.

Fifty-nine percent of those questioned said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while just 14% said it should be illegal in all cases.

Among Republicans, 46% said they supported a woman's right to choose an abortion in most cases.

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See also:

22 Jan 01 | Americas
The history of Roe vs Wade
21 Jan 01 | Americas
Bush stamps his authority
12 Aug 99 | Health
More abortions 'mean less crime'
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