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The Bush Presidency: Bush to Block Aid to Certain International Family-Planning Groups

Aired January 22, 2001 - 1:24 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The staff is sworn in. The long- promised education reform bill's being drafted. And the first executive order is about to be signed.

The first business day of the second Bush administration has been a busy one, and it's only half over.

That presidential order I mentioned will reverse a key policy of the Clinton administration. And there's a reason it's being announced today.

Let's check in with White House correspondent Major Garrett to see what that's all about -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, as the president said in that tape we showed just a few moments ago, that he has the intention some time this week of signing an executive order that would change one part of the abortion right's framework in this country.

It won't change in any way abortion rights in this country. What it will do is it'll bother the use of U.S.taxpayer funds from any international family planning organization that either provides abortion counseling or performs abortions themselves.

This is a reversal of a policy that the Clinton administration had in. And not surprisingly, that was a reversal of a Bush and Reagan policy. This has gone back and forth as administrations have changed from Republican to Democrat. President Bush made clear today, some time this week, he will reverse it one more time.

And as you mentioned, also, Lou, today, one of the first orders of business, signing -- swearing-in, rather, all of the president's executive staff. The person who carried out that duty for him ceremonially was the vice president, Dick Cheney. He wore in all of the senior staff to work here at the White House. A few moments later, the president himself said he expected all who work here at the White House to uphold the highest ethical standards.

Another announcement from the Bush White House today about the first international trip the president will take. He won't travel far. San Cristobal, Mexico, to meet with new Mexican president, Vicente Fox. Also on the president's agenda today, he has just concluded a luncheon with Republican congressional leaders. But this is not just a day devoted to Republicans. He's having some senior elder statesmen from the Democratic Party come here. Among them, Bob Strauss, also Bill Gray, former leader in the Democratic Party in the House, and also Jody Powell, who was a press secretary to President Carter.

President wants to hear from these key Democrats on how to build relationships not only with Democrats on the Hill, but with Democrats outside the Hill, to build as broad a Democratic and bipartisan coalition as he possibly can, as he sends his legislative agenda to Congress -- Lou.

WATERS: Major, pro-choice advocates might undoubtedly think that the abortion order about to be signed by president Bush is some sort of a signal that would inevitably make them very nervous. Is it considered some sort of a signal of what's to come?

GARRETT: Well, certainly, they consider it as a signal.

And it is, by no means, a surprise, Lou. As the president, when he was campaigning for this office, made very clear that not only was he opposed to most abortion rights, but he would sign an executive order of exactly this kind.

He's wasting no time, just as his predecessor, President Clinton, wasted no time in reversing the previous Bush and Reagan policy on this matter.

It is not, as I said, a matter that deals with abortion rights in this country. But it carries tremendous weight, symbolically, on both sides of this issue.

And they consider it -- abortion rights supporters consider it important that the United States send a signal internationally that abortion is not only proper but legal. Those who opposed to abortion want to sent exactly the opposite signal.

So, although it doesn't change anything for American rights as it deals with abortion, to the supporters on either side, it carries tremendous symbolic weight, and clearly in that respect, a very important signal -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Major Garrett at the White House.

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