President Barack Obama on Friday struck down the Bush administration's ban on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information — an inflammatory policy that has bounced in and out of law for the past quarter-century.
Obama's executive order, the latest in an aggressive first week reversing contentious Bush policies, was warmly welcomed by liberal groups and denounced by abortion rights foes.
The ban has been a political football between Democratic and Republican administrations since GOP President Ronald Reagan first adopted it 1984. Democrat Bill Clinton ended the ban in 1993, but Republican George W. Bush re-instituted it in 2001 as one of his first acts in office.
"For too long, international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back and forth debate that has served only to divide us," Obama said in a statement released from the White House. "I have no desire to continue this stale and fruitless debate."
He said the ban was unnecessarily broad and undermined family planning in developing countries.
"In the coming weeks, my administration will initiate a fresh conversation on family planning, working to find areas of common ground to best meet the needs of women and families at home and around the world," the president said.
Sure, it's only a small step. But it is almost certainly not the final step. Unless he has implemented strict controls and segregation of the funds (which nothing in the article leads me to believe has happened), by permitting abortion providers to obtain federal funds, he is necessarily putting federal dollars into companies that provide abortion thereby funding abortions themselves.
I wonder if President Obama's "working to find common ground" in this area will be like his response to Republicans who are concerned about the economic stimulus plan (including the fact that the economic stimulus plan contains "'hundreds of millions of dollars' for contraceptives"):
During his private meeting with congressional Democrats and Republicans on Friday, President Obama ended a philosophical debate over tax policy with the simple declaration that his opinion prevailed because "I won."
Yup, nothing like working to find common ground.