Newly-elected U.S. President William Clinton issued a series of “executive orders on abortion rights” on 22 January 1993, the 20th anniversary of the U. S. Supreme Court abortion decision in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. As thousands of anti-abortion marchers rallied in the streets of Washington, D,C., the newly elected president said, “Today I am acting to separate our national health and medical policy from the divisive conflict over abortion.”
In this interest, he directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Donna Shalala, to “immediately” lift the “moratorium on federal funding for research involving transplantation of fetal tissue.” Claiming that the moratorium had “dramatically” limited treatment for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and leukemia, he announced, We must free science and medicine from the grasp of politics and give all Americans access to the very latest and best medical treatments” (White House Office of the Press Secretary, 1/22/93).
Aiming to “prevent unintended pregnancies” and guarantee “healthy child-bearing,” the president ordered the HHS Secretary to include “information, counseling or referrals concerning abortion” in Title X of the “Public Health Service Act (PHSA).” Family planning services “with priority given to low-income persons” under Title X are administered by the Office of Population Affairs within DHHS. Title X also contains an authorization for research in reproductive sciences, contraceptive development and demographic and behavioral sciences.
Declaring that, “Here in the United States RU-486 has been held hostage to politics,” Clinton directed the Secretary of HHS to “determine whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant exclusion of RU-486 from the list of drugs that qualify for personal use importation exemption.” He ordered HHS to “immediately explore the propriety” of promoting testing in the United States as well as licensing and manufacturing of the drug. “The American people,” he said, “deserve the best medical treatment in the world. We’re committed to providing them with nothing less” (Reuters, “President Bill Clinton Remarks…” 1/22,93).
In addition, President Clinton ordered the Secretary of Defense to “permit abortion services to be provided” in U.S. military facilities “if paid for entirely with non-Department of Defense funds.” He ordered the immediate repeal of the “Mexico City Policy” which had prohibited the distribution of U.S. funds to organizations that “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.” Abortions for the life of the mother, rape and incest had been permitted under the policy as were “passive” referrals, that is, when “responding to a question regarding where a safe, legal abortion may be obtained” (John Blane and Matthew Friedman, “Mexico City Policy Implementation Study,” Population Technical Assistance Project, Occasional paper no. 5, 21 Nov., 1990, A4).
Also on 22 January, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memorandum to regulatory agencies ordering the withdrawal from the Federal Register (that is, from promulgation), for purposes of review, all unpublished regulations. This included regulations granting refugee status to those who were “fleeing coerced population control policies that involve at result in forced abortion or sterilization …”