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In another of a series of executive orders ending eight years of Cheney-Bush idiocy and worse, President Barack Obama has reversed abortion-funding policy.

Some will argue that now is not the time for more "culture wars." This ignores that fact that the so-called Mexico City rule has, over the past eight years, and during the Reagan-Bush years, killed uncounted numbers of women and ruined the health of others. The rule barred federal money from going to international family planning groups that provide information, counseling or referrals about abortion services

The order comes the day after the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States.

It reverses the "Mexico City policy," initiated by President Reagan in 1984, canceled by President Clinton and reinstated by President George W. Bush in 2001.

The policy, referred to by critics as "the global gag rule," was initially announced at a population conference in Mexico City.

Reversing the previous administrations' stance on the policy was one of Clinton's first acts as president in January 1993 and the very first executive order issued by Bush on January 22, 2001, the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

In the United States, under the 32-year-old Hyde Amendment. federal money continues to be prohibited in almost all cases from providing abortions to poor women. Although changed several times since 1977, the Hyde Amendment currently requires coverage of abortion in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment. The physical health provision was removed in 1979.

Seventeen states provide their own funding for abortions via Medicaid, but 13 of those are doing so because of a court order. Women in the military, on Indian reservations, in the Peace Corps and in federal prisons also cannot obtain federal money for an abortion.

The Guttmacher Institute reported in its 2000 survey - Rights Without Access: Revisiting Public Funding of Abortion for Poor Women - that 20-35% of low-income women eligible for Medicaid who would choose abortion if the public money were available carry their pregnancies to term when they can't obtain those funds.

Just like the Mexico City rule, the Hyde Amendment stigmatizes abortion and harms the health of poor women by effectively denying them access to a legal medical procedure available to their more affluent sisters. That is class warfare at its most brazen.

President Obama has plenty on his plate over the next 100 days and beyond, and it would be foolish given all the crises we now face for him to make any attempt to reverse the Hyde Amendment a key priority at this stage of his new presidency. But at some point in the next four years, he could add weight to his forceful and welcome statement on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade (and his ending of the Mexico City rule today) to urge Congress to repeal this decades-old legislation that ruins poor women's health and treats them as second-class citizens.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Jan 23, 2009 at 03:15 PM PST.

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