- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 24, 2001

As a first order of business, President Bush Monday restored an abortion policy that is in line with the convictions and priorities of most Americans. Demonstrating a noteworthy contrast with former President Clinton, Mr. Bush issued an executive order that restricts U.S. taxpayer funding of organizations that perform abortions in foreign countries or lobby to change their existing abortion laws. In doing so, Mr. Bush put back into effect the so-called Mexico City policy, which President Reagan established at a population conference in that city in 1984. Mr. Clinton himself had overturned the Mexico City policy two days after taking office in 1993.

The Clinton administration had taken pains to label those opposed to using taxpayer money for abortions abroad as a marginalized-fringe group. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in November 1999, for example, that Congress was holding U.N. funding "hostage to an extremist agenda on international family planning," by linking it to a bill that limits U.S. aid to organizations that perform or promote abortions abroad. But this position is far from extreme. According to a Los Angeles Times poll conducted in June, 54 percent of Americans oppose using public funds for abortions when the woman couldn't afford the procedure, while only 37 percent supported this use of taxpayer money. Another 7 percent said they were undecided and 2 percent were indifferent.

During the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, Mr. Bush hinted that the country wasn't ready for a ban on abortions. "I know we got to change a lot of minds before before we get there in America. What I do believe is we can find good, common ground on issues like parental notification or parental consent," he said. Mr. Bush added that he supported making partial-birth, or late-term, abortions illegal. According to a Gallup Poll held in October, 63 percent of Americans support Mr. Bush's position, while 35 percent said they were against making the procedure illegal and another 2 percent had no opinion. Furthermore, an exit poll in the presidential election found that a mere 20 percent of voters thought abortion should be legal in all cases and only 35 percent said it should be legal in most cases.

The president on Monday took an important step in carrying out the will of America on abortion policy. If Mr. Bush keeps the promises he made during the campaign, he can rebuild America's respect for the miracle of life. He faces a tough fight ahead on partial-birth abortions and other abortion issues, but it will be well worth the president's commitment and effort.

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