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 He rescinded a law banning federally financed clinics from offering abortion counselling, opened the door again to US funding for international family-planning programmes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)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible