Wednesday, January 28, 2009

From the Seattle Times:

President Obama wisely kills abortion "global gag rule"

President Obama signed an executive order ending the ban on federal funding for international groups that promote or perform abortions. It is an important move by the new president that sets a different tone.

A new president and new era mean it is time for a refreshing new approach on the shortsighted gag rule, the provision banning federal funds for international groups that promote or perform abortion.

President Obama changed the rule, a swift move early in his administration that makes enormous sense. The new president has an undisputable mandate for change and that includes reasonable policy on women's reproductive rights.

The ban on federal funding to any group that even mentions abortion or abortion counseling has always represented a ridiculous limit on the kind of information that needs to be distributed.

Few people favor abortion. But sometimes women need that kind of information and medical attention. Obama is right to make this important change.

In the early days of his administration, Obama wisely tried not to wade too deeply into sharp divisions on ideological issues. He has, however, done a few targeted things that set a different tone, such as suspending trials at Guantánamo. Keeping a campaign promise to women's groups, he quells the gag rule.

The federal rule is one of the most narrow-minded federal policies, one that flips and flops from one administration to the next, from Ronald Reagan, who established it in 1984, to President Bill Clinton, who ended it in 1993, to President George W. Bush, who changed it back in 2001.

The gag rule is so contrary to wise planning that it precludes international family-planning groups from providing abortions, counseling or even referring someone to another organization that performs abortions. The rule is so stringent that federal money could not go to a group even if the money was targeted for a different health-care need. This is exactly the kind the head-in-the-sand policy the public is tired of.

Obama also is preparing to loosen federal restrictions on embryonic stem-cell research. Good for him and for many individuals who may benefit from this important research.

The voters said they wanted change. These policy adjustments are overdue.


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