WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama’s choice of Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state is likely to have wide and deep repercussions, pro-life activists say.

Obama announced his choice of his former political rival Dec. 1, along with another appointment that may have an effect on the life cause around the world: Susan Rice as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (see sidebar, page 11).

Obama and Clinton struggled during the primaries, openly criticizing each other on their foreign policy credentials, war policy and elements of international diplomacy.

But Obama has now buried the hatchet, praising Clinton as “an American of tremendous stature who will have my complete confidence; who knows many of the world’s leaders; who will command respect in every capitol; and who will clearly have the ability to advance our interests around the world.”

Though many pundits see the emerging Obama cabinet as a “team of rivals,” pro-life activists warn that both Obama and Clinton are not rivals regarding pro-abortion issues and that the combination will lead to serious setbacks in worldwide pro-life policy.

Clinton has a notable pro-abortion record that includes support for the Freedom of Choice Act, a catch-all bill to remove all restrictions to abortions and allow taxpayer funding for abortions. She has a record of supporting controversial federal funding for international groups that provide abortions and promote population control.

Pro-abortion organizations have already signaled their delight with the appointment.

“Women’s ability to control the size of their families, regardless of economics, nationality or culture, has a direct impact on their economic well-being and that of their children,” Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in a statement. “Sen. Clinton understands that women’s quality of life directly affects the major issues confronting the globe: national security, environmental sustainability and global poverty.”

Susan Yoshihara, vice president for research for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, noted that Clinton has a record of supporting abortion as a “human right” and will actively promote the agenda of pro-abortion groups in the vein of former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, appointed by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

Yoshihara noted that big advances were made in promoting abortion as a “human right” during the 1990s and that after eight years of a pro-life administration, they are eager to return to that agenda.

If Clinton is confirmed as secretary of state, she will have direct influence over international policy. She could also continue to promote abortion through the negotiation and interpretation of international treaties demanding that abortion be considered a human right.

“Many of these groups promoting family planning, population control and abortion overseas are poised to launch these initiatives in the years ahead,” Yoshihara said in an interview. “They are very optimistic that Hillary Clinton will support those.”

One policy likely to be overturned in the Obama administration is the Mexico City Policy, often called the “Global Gag Rule” by pro-abortion organizations. The policy, put in place by President Ronald Reagan, bans federal funding of nongovernmental organizations that perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations. Although President Clinton rescinded the policy after being elected to office, President Bush reinstated it by executive order in time for the 2001 March for Life in Washington.

Last September, Clinton voted to negate the Mexico City Policy as the Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., in spite of a veto threat from President Bush.

As secretary of state, Clinton is also likely to promote taxpayer contributions to the United Nations Population Fund, a program that funds organizations that promote abortion, such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

The fund also promotes contraception and potentially abortifacient “emergency contraception” methods in countries around the world under its pledge to increase reproductive health and prevent AIDS. It has also been criticized in the past for supporting China’s one-child policy.

In 2002, President Bush suspended U.S. contributions to the United Nations Population Fund, a move widely hailed as a victory for pro-life activists.

Sen. Clinton introduced legislation in February to restore funding to the United Nations Population Fund, urged on by activist pro-choice organizations such as NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League), Pro-Choice America and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“Hillary Clinton has been a poster child for Emily’s List and abortion groups that lined up behind her during her campaign,” said Joy Yearout, political director of the Susan B. Anthony List, a political action committee for pro-life congressional leaders. “I think that they will expect her to carry their agenda at every opportunity.”

Yearout agreed that Catholics and pro-life activists are likely to see several setbacks in policies limiting abortions in the coming years under Obama, especially with Clinton as secretary of state.

“I think it’s definitely going to seem worse because of all the great pro-life progress that we have made in the last eight years,” she noted. “It’s going to be difficult to swallow all these rolled-back policies.”

Charlie Spiering is based

in Washington, D.C.