In the intial hours of the Clinton administration, the brouhaha over the ill-fated nomination of Zoë Baird and the ban on homosexuals in the military abruptly overshadowed discussion of the abortion issue. Yet on the second full day of his presidency, Bill Clinton took action that signals a radically different phase in the abortion debate.

On January 22, the twentieth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, the President followed through on his campaign promise and rescinded all abortion-related executive orders that had been enacted in the Reagan and Bush administrations:

• The Title X regulations—dubbed the “gag rule” by critics—which prohibited federally funded family-planning clinics from counseling about abortion;

• The Mexico City policy, which forbade U.S. support for international family-planning organizations that actively promote abortion;

• The prohibition of fetal tissue obtained from induced abortions being used in federally funded research;

• The ban on abortions being performed at U.S. military bases overseas.

Abortion pill review

In addition, Clinton ordered the Food and Drug Administration to review its ban on importing the French abortion pill RU 486 for personal use.

The President said he enacted the directives out of his vision of an America “where abortion is safe and legal, but rare.” But antiabortion leaders say the net effect will be just the opposite. Richard Land, executive director of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission, says, “The new President has taken actions … [that] will result in the deaths of untold millions at the hands of abortionists.”

Abortion-rights advocates are jubilant over the new policies. Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, says, “With ...

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