Clinton move reopens abortion battle

BOTH SIDES in the ever-divisive debate over abortion rights in the United States returned to the fray at the weekend, responding either with praise or fury to the repeal of federal restrictions ordered on Friday by President Clinton.

Protest was strongest in the capital, where police arrested more than 300 members of the anti-abortion movement after they blockaded three abortion clinics, at one site chaining themselves to cars which had been wedged in clinic doorways.

Bill Clinton has issued decrees overturning five pieces of Bush-Reagan legislation. He rescinded a law banning federally financed clinics from offering abortion counselling, opened the door again to US funding for international family-planning programmes and lifted a ban on medical research using foetal tissues.

The ending of the ban on counselling, dubbed by pro-choice activists as the 'gag rule', was welcomed by the Planned Parenthood Federation, which runs 900 clinics across the country. The law, championed by George Bush, had been blocked by a federal judge but was due to come into force next month. Dozens of clinics had been threatened with closure.

'Overturning the gag rules literally saves the ability of low-income American women to have family planning and deal with unwanted pregnancies,' said David Andrews, the acting president of the federation. 'Otherwise we would have had a public-health disaster on our hands.'

Mr Clinton's order is also welcome news for international agencies, including the United Nations, engaged in family planning projects in Africa and other Third World regions. The US was a leading force in population-control efforts until the mid-1980s, when President Reagan withdrew funding from all programmes that included some abortion element.

'What we're seeing is the United States returning to the fold, and that's very important,' said Sharon Camp, the vice-president of Population Action International, a Washington-based group.

Officials at the UN Population Fund voiced hope that US funding for their programmes would be quickly resumed. Until the Reagan order, the fund received dollars 46m (pounds 30m) a year.

The new attitude of the Clinton administration is certain to provoke sustained protest from the 'right-to-life' activists, however. At the weekend protest, a spokesman for 'Operation Rescue', the leading anti-abortion group, warned that the President was 'forcing us . . . to bring the battle on to the streets'.

Hundreds of hymn-singing Operation Rescue members blockaded three Washington clinics on Saturday morning in an effort to turn away prospective abortion patients. They were met by equal numbers of pro-choice advocates, who responded by chanting abortion-rights slogans. In one incident, police took two hours to disentangle protesters from cars used in the barricades.

The Vatican made its own views known through the columns of the L'Osservatore Romano, the newspaper often used to convey papal policy.

Under President Clinton, the US had 'embarked on the paths of death and violence against innocent beings', it said.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: £20000 - £25000 per annum + c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Sales Consultant - OTE £45,000

£15000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for an exci...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food