Obama signed the memorandum without coverage by the media on a day following the 36th anniversary of the 1973 landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion.
The move by Obama to reverse the Mexico City Policy received both praise and criticism from both sides of the abortion debate.
“Women’s health has been severely impacted by the cutoff of assistance. President Obama’s actions will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, abortions and women dying from high-risk pregnancies because they don’t have access to family planning,” said Tod Preston, a spokesman for Population Action International.
“Yesterday, President Obama issued executive orders banning the torture of terrorists but today signed an order that exports the torture of unborn children around the world,” said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.
“President Obama not long ago told the American people that he would support policies to reduce abortions, but today he is effectively guaranteeing more abortions by funding groups that promote abortion as a method of population control,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee.
In a statement issued with the memorandum Obama said the limitations on funding were “excessively broad” and adding that “they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family programs in foreign nations.” He added that “For too long, international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back and forth debate that has served only to divide us.I have no desire to continue this stale and fruitless debate.” Obama also said that he would ask his administration to initiate a “fresh conversation” on family planning and to seek common ground with abortion opponents.
In an accompanying statement, President Obama said he would also work with Congress to restore U.S. funding support for the United Nations Population Fund “to reduce poverty, improve the health of women and children, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide family planning assistance to women in 154 countries.”
According to the Washington Post, lifting the Mexico City Policy would not permit U.S. tax dollars to be used for abortions, but it would allow funding to resume to groups that provide other services, including counseling about abortions.