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Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 01:30 GMT 02:30 UK
Abortion ban setback for Bush
Anti-abortion protesters
Abortion is an emotive issue in the US
An American congressional panel has moved to overturn President George W Bush's ban on providing federal funds to international groups that perform or advocate abortions.

In what has been described as Mr Bush's first foreign policy setback, the House of Representatives International Relations Committee passed an amendment authorising billions of dollars in aid to such organisations.


My amendment is about ensuring that international family planning services, which can prevent abortions, can be delivered to millions of women and men all over the world

Democrat Barbara Lee
Republican members say they hope the amendment will be defeated when it is considered by the full House.

The ban was Mr Bush's first act after taking office and was condemned by the European Union and international family planning groups.

Critics in the United States say the rule is an affront to the right to free speech and could lead to even more risky abortions worldwide.

Veto threat

"This issue, in our view, is a freedom of speech issue, not an abortion issue," said Democrat Tom Lantos before the vote.

US President George W Bush
Bush faces first foreign policy setback
Democrat Barbara Lee, who introduced the amendment said it was about "ensuring that international family planning services, which can prevent abortions, can be delivered to millions of women and men all over the world".

All the Democrats on the panel as well as three Republicans voted for the amendment, approving it by 26 votes to 22.

But Republicans say they are confident that the committee's move will be defeated when it is considered by the full House, possibly as early as next week.

"The real fight will be on the floor of the House of Representatives," Republican Christopher Smith said.

The panel's vote links the issue with the payment of back dues to the United Nations, and committee chairman Henry Hyde warned the whole bill could be vetoed if the amendment remained in place.

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See also:

27 Apr 01 | Americas
US House reopens abortion debate
23 Jan 01 | Americas
Bush blocks abortion funding
24 Jan 01 | Americas
Analysis: Bush's abortion signal
23 Jan 01 | Americas
EU condemns Bush abortion move
25 Jan 01 | Americas
Dismay over Bush abortion move
22 Jan 01 | Americas
The history of Roe vs Wade
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