I remember the day I learned that Bush had implemented a policy to deny funding to all international aid groups that offered the option of, or even counseling about, abortion. It was one of his very first acts in office - and that day I hated him, perhaps more than I had hated anyone.
I was a sophomore in college, which goes to say that I was really a kid with a lot of fight in me ready to protest all the ills of the world. I had campaigned for Bill Bradley, then Gore, and although I would later come to respect some aspects of the Bush presidency after 9/11, on that day I hated him.
His act to showcase his strong pro-life stance and satisfy the fundamentalists who furthered his campaign also happened to cut funding for organizations that provided emergency protection for victims of oppression, abuse, rape, and war all across the world. Aid organizations in Africa assisting refugees of the war could no longer accept U.S. funds because they would counsel a woman on ALL of her options in a pregnancy (often as a result of an assault). Across Asia and Eastern Europe, budgets were slashed for organizations helping women in all kinds of perilous situations. Medical services groups like Planned Parenthood, that often serve as the primary health care provider for low-income women, couldn't rely on help from the U.S.. In my eyes, it was a devastating day.
I won't get into the argument about abortion - to me that's not what this is about - the U.S. was NEVER funding abortions. The idea of cutting funding to a group that offers counseling on abortion is a message that the U.S. will not help a fellow human because of an ideological belief. We will not help you with this concern, because the organization that is helping you will also tell someone else the truth about her choices. Regardless of how you feel about abortion, limiting NECESSARY healthcare because of this is ridiculous. It's like telling my coworker I won't work with her on a project because she disagreed with me on a personal issue. It's a petty punishment that has no place in the world relief conversation.
Obama changed that today.
I don't know that Obama is going to be a great president. I hope. I hope he will be, but I don't know that his leanings toward community organization and socialist principals will be the answer. Maybe. I do know, though, that this act is an incredible step in a good direction. We are telling the world that we will not let ideology get in the way of our place as a world power - we will help regardless of religious belief or ignorance about world situations.