US Senate Votes in Favour of Overseas Abortion

WASHINGTON - The US Senate has lifted a ban to provide family-planning aid to overseas organisations that promote or perform abortions.

In a 53-41 vote last Thursday, the Senate reversed current US policy restricting aid to abortion groups in favour of using taxpayer's money to support overseas health groups which include abortion as a method of family planning.

"Once again, this Congress is threatening to abolish long-standing pro-life policies that protect preborn children," said Carrie Gordon Earll, senior bioethics analyst for Focus on the Family Action, in a statement.

Earll added, however, that, "Thankfully, once again, President Bush is standing in the way with a veto threat. As the President has demonstrated in the past, he's willing to use his veto pen to defend pro-life policies, and for that we are grateful."

The overturned measure is known as the "Mexico City" policy - named after the location where it was first announced by former US President Ronald Reagan in 1984 at the United Nations International Conference on Population.

Under Reagan, the United States said it would no longer fund non-governmental organisations that violated the international agreement for nations not to use family planning assistance fund to support groups that include abortion as part of their family planning.

The policy continued as law from 1984 to the present, except for an eight-year gap during the Clinton administration. President Bush reinstated the policy by executive order in his second full day in office in 2001.

"I will veto any legislation that weakens current federal policies and laws on abortion, or that encourages the destruction of human life at any stage," wrote Bush to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in May.

Presidential hopeful Republican Senator Sam Brownback had sponsored the failed amendment to restore the Mexico City Policy in the $34 billion Foreign Operations spending bill.

The US Congress must achieve a two-thirds majority in order to override the President's veto.