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On 1st day Obama could increase abortions

WASHINGTON (BP)–One quick signature after Barack Obama takes office Jan. 20 would show the president-elect wasn’t serious about reducing the number of abortions, a pro-life policy expert says.

Pro-life and pro-choice advocates alike expect Obama to rescind by executive action — possibly on his first day in the White House — a policy that bars federal funds from going to organizations that promote or perform abortions in foreign countries. If the newly inaugurated president were to issue such an order, he would eliminate what is known as the Mexico City Policy.

“Giving hundreds of millions of dollars” to promote abortion as a method of family planning “will greatly increase the number of abortions” overseas over time, said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).

“[S]o this will be the first action by Obama that will show how phony his resolution to reduce abortions was,” Johnson told Baptist Press. “Unfortunately, it won’t be his last.”

NRLC also expects Obama “will support an early attack on the Hyde Amendment,” Johnson told Baptist Press. “If the Hyde Amendment is repealed, that would greatly increase the number of abortions in the United States.”

The Hyde Amendment, named after the late Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, prohibits Medicaid and other federal funds from paying for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s life. Medicaid funded about 300,000 abortions in the year prior to the Hyde Amendment’s enactment in 1976. The Hyde Amendment has saved the lives of more than 1 million, likely even 2 million, people, according to what the NRLC described as a conservative estimate.

A potentially significant rise in the domestic and foreign abortion rates during the Obama administration would fly in the face of his endorsement during the general election campaign of abortion reduction. Pro-life leaders and activists will not be shocked if the new president supports the agenda of the abortion rights lobby, “but there may be many people who voted for Obama who will be surprised to read these headlines,” especially given the amount of disinformation issued about his position, Johnson said.

Obama will need Congress’ assistance to overturn the Hyde Amendment, since it is attached to spending legislation that is approved each year. He needs only to issue an executive order to rescind the Mexico City Policy.

Other potential Obama actions that could increase the number of deaths by the unborn or increase federal funding of such deaths would require various levels of cooperation from Congress or the judiciary:

— Providing grants for destructive embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) would seem to be a primary target for the new administration. Obama could rescind President Bush’s 2001 order banning federal grants for stem cell research that destroys human embryos. A congressional measure, the 1996 Dickey Amendment, undergirds the Bush order, however, and a court challenge based on that law is likely if the new president overturns his predecessor’s rule. The Dickey Amendment is part of an annual spending bill, so it has to be renewed by Congress each year.

— Supporting a controversial United Nations family planning fund would likely be a candidate for restoration by the Obama administration. For seven consecutive years, the Bush administration has refused to forward federal funds for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), based on the agency’s support of China’s coercive population-control policy. During that time period, the administration withheld nearly $235 million approved by Congress from the UNFPA as a result of Bush’s finding that the agency aided in a program of forced abortion and sterilization. Bush’s determination was based on the 1985 Kemp-Kasten Amendment.

— The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which Obama has endorsed, would overturn all restrictions on abortion and abortion funding at all government levels, even abortion rights advocates have said. It also would keep abortion legal even if Roe v. Wade someday is overturned. Congress would have to approve the legislation before Obama could sign it into law.
Tom Strode is Baptist Press Washington bureau.