US President Barack Obama will lift 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, an administration official said.
"It will be today. He's going to make an executive order (lifting the global gag rule)," the official said.
The Democratic president's decision is a victory for advocates of abortion rights on an issue that in recent years has become a tit-for-tat policy change each time the White House shifts from one party to the other.
When the ban was in place, no US 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-US government sources.
It has been called the Mexico City Policy because it was unveiled at a United Nations conference there in 1984 and became one of the centerpiece social policies of the conservative administration of former President Ronald Reagan, a Republican.
Critics call it the "gag rule" because it also cuts funds to groups that advocate or lobby for the lifting of abortion restrictions, so they say it infringes on free speech. They also say it has reduced healthcare for some of the world's poorest women.
Former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, rescinded the rule when he took office in January 1993 and his successor, Republican George W. Bush, reinstated it in January 2001.
When he reinstated it, Bush said taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for or advocate abortions.
Anti-abortion activists agreed with Bush and criticized the move to lift the ban on funding.
"When we wake up every morning to a deepening financial crisis, it is an insult to the American people to bail out the abortion industry," said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life.
"Planned Parenthood is a billion-dollar company and they do not need additional resources to burden the American taxpayer," she added.
The United States spends more than $400 million on overseas family planning assistance each year.