Biden takes cautious first steps towards women’s right to abort

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WASHINGTON | New US President Joe Biden on Thursday again authorized the United States to fund foreign associations offering abortion services, a cautious first step on this mined ground.

On the eve of the annual mobilization of anti-abortion activists, the Democrat revoked the “Mexico rule” which prohibited giving federal funds to any international NGO offering even advice on voluntary terminations of pregnancy ( IVG).

A strong political marker for decades, this rule was introduced by the Republican administration of Ronald Reagan, annulled by each Democratic president and reinstated by each Republican.

According to a government report, it had an impact on 1,300 international projects in 2018 and forced NGOs that year to give up more than $ 150 million or their abortion activities.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed a decision that “strongly reminds women and girls around the world that their rights matter.”

Women’s rights associations have also said they are “delighted” to see “a cruel and neocolonial rule” disappear, in the words of Serra Sippel, president of the Center for Health and Gender Equity (Change).

But Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has criticized “the funding of abortions abroad with taxpayer money” which “tramples their conscience” and goes, he says, against the promises of. unity of the new president.

Virtual walk

Abortion has been legal in the United States since a Supreme Court decision in 1973, but still strongly divides the American population, with opposition still very strong in religious circles.

Like every year around the anniversary date of this historic stop, abortion opponents have planned to be heard on Friday. But pandemic obliges, their “march” will be virtual unlike that of last year in which Donald Trump participated.

A time favorable to the right of women to choose to have an abortion, the Republican billionaire had won over voters on the religious right by posing as a fierce opponent of abortion.

To satisfy them, his administration had declined the “rule of Mexico” at the national level, by requiring family planning centers to physically distinguish between gynecological consultations and those related to abortion, on pain of losing federal funds. A quarter of these structures had been penalized.

In his memorandum, Joe Biden approaches this subject with caution. It orders “to examine whether it is necessary to suspend, review, cancel or open for discussion these regulations”.

The text also says nothing about the “Hyde Amendment,” which prohibits the use of federal funds to reimburse most abortions, although Joe Biden promised during his campaign to repeal it.

By initialing the document, the president has also adopted a low profile. “We are not doing anything new,” he insisted, in front of the cameras, being careful not to use the word abortion.

“Tramples the conscience”

During her first press conference, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked about the new president’s intentions on this subject: “He is a devout Catholic who goes to church regularly,” she said. answered without saying more.

Despite the opposition of the clergy to abortions, Joe Biden openly supports the right of women to have an abortion, in accordance with the positions of the majority of his voters. But he didn’t make it a big topic in his campaign.

Associations defending this right are therefore extremely vigilant for the future.

Its announcements are “extremely important first steps, but the administration must go further,” said Herminia Palacio, president of the Guttmacher institute, noting that the majority of the approximately 850,000 abortions performed each year in the United States involve women. of color and modest backgrounds.

For her, facilitating access to abortions is therefore fully in the fight against inequalities, which Joe Biden has made a priority. On Thursday, he also signed a decree to facilitate access for all Americans to medical coverage.

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