New abortion orders praised, protested Clinton lifts bans on health programs

January 24, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Family-planning officials in the United State and at the United Nations yesterday praised President Clinton's orders to lift abortion-related restrictions on an array of health programs, saying the action would not only have profound effects at home and abroad but would also enable the United States to resume a leadership role in family-planning programs worldwide.

They said the reversal of the ban both on abortion counseling at clinics that receive federal money and on aid to international organizations that engage in abortion-related activities would result in more family-planning services for low-income women here and abroad.

And a surge in research is expected to result from Mr. Clinton's lifting of the ban on federal funding of medical research using fetal tissue.

But protest against Mr. Clinton's repeal of the "gag rules" also arose quickly.

Hundreds of abortion opponents blocked entry to four Washington clinics yesterday, and police said more than 300 people were arrested after refusing to move.

On Friday, 75,000 people marched in Washington to outlaw abortion and to protest Mr. Clinton's actions.

LTC The president "is forcing us, out of his policies, to bring the battle out to the streets," said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a spokesman for Operation Rescue, which organized the protests.

And the Vatican castigated Mr. Clinton yesterday for his new abortion policies, saying his frequent calls for an American renewal have "embarked on the paths of death and violence against innocent beings."

At the Planned Parenthood Federation and other family-planning agencies, officials said Mr. Clinton's action removed the threat that they would lose tens of millions of dollars in federal money and be forced to close dozens of clinics.

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

Nafis Sadik, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund, said Mr. Clinton's repeal of the ban on aid to international family-planning programs involved in abortion-related activities was a major step toward Washington's rejoining the U.N. program.

This, she said, would probably mean that the United Nations would receive money to expand the number of clinics in Nigeria, Ghana and a half-dozen other African countries.

Officials from population-control groups said Mr. Clinton's decision to back international family-planning programs would give impetus and new leadership to such programs.

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

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