Thursday, March 19, 2009

Obama Continues Positive Reversals Of Bush Policies

In the midst of dire news on the economic front, three positive developments from the Obama administration are well worth recognizing:

Gay Rights: The Obama administration on Wednesday formally endorsed a U.N. statement calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality, a measure that former President George W. Bush had refused to sign.

The move was the administration's latest in reversing Bush-era decisions that have been heavily criticized by human rights and other groups. The United States was the only western nation not to sign onto the declaration when it came up at the U.N. General Assembly in December.

"The United States supports the U.N.'s statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity and is pleased to join the other 66 U.N. member states who have declared their support of the statement," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood.

Abortion Rights: President Barack Obama on Friday lifted restrictions on U.S. government funding for groups that provide abortion services or counseling abroad, reversing a policy of his Republican predecessor George W. Bush, a spokesman said.

...When the ban was in place, no U.S. government funding for family planning services could be given to clinics or groups that offer abortion services or counseling in other countries even if the funds for those activities come from non-U.S. government sources.

...Critics of the funding ban say the anti-abortion restrictions have resulted in huge drops for funding worldwide to organizations that provide family-planning services and basic healthcare. They say this means many women are deprived of contraception and other health services in poor countries, leading to back-alley abortions and deaths.

Medical Marijuana: Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Wednesday outlined a shift in the enforcement of federal drug laws, saying the administration would effectively end the Bush administration’s frequent raids on distributors of medical marijuana.

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Holder provided few specifics but said the Justice Department’s enforcement policy would now be restricted to traffickers who falsely masqueraded as medical dispensaries and “use medical marijuana laws as a shield.”

In the Bush administration, federal agents raided medical marijuana distributors that violated federal statutes even if the dispensaries appeared to be complying with state laws. The raids produced a flood of complaints, particularly in California, which in 1996 became the first state to legalize marijuana sales to people with doctors’ prescriptions.

Rachel Maddow has been outlining the Obama administration's "Scrub, Rinse, Repeat" reversals of Bush policies; in the video above, she notes the signing of the U.N. Gay Rights Declaration. It is gratifying to know that we now have an administration that recognizes that gays are not criminals, abortion rights are part of women's health services and those relieving human suffering by legally dispensing medical marijuana shouldn't be harassed.

The Bush administration's hostility to gay and abortion rights were emblematic of its support for the religious right agenda. The federal raids on medical marijuana distributors in California put the lie to Republican support for states' rights. Obama's recent moves follow other positive reversals of Bush policy in terms of fair pay for women, children's health insurance and stem cell research. As a general proposition, we can surmise that any reversal of the Bush legacy is a good thing.

No comments: