NEW YORK, AP

The Bush administration’s policy of withholding aid from overseas groups that perform abortions is hurting women and forcing clinics to close, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said.

Clinton, speaking Sunday at a New York University forum to mark the 10th anniversary of the United Nations’ fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, said 20 million women worldwide risk unsafe abortions every year, 68,000 die and many more are injured.

“Many of these deaths and these injuries can be prevented by providing women with the information and means to choose the size and spacing of their own families, and yet I regret that the government of my own country is making it more difficult for women in these situations to receive safe medical care,” said Clinton, a New York Democrat. “It is unfair for governments and people in developed countries who have access to the full range of reproductive and family health services to deny those to women in other countries around the world.”

Under the so-called global gag rule, which President Bush reinstituted when he took office, overseas non governmental organizations that perform abortions or advocate the legalization of abortion are ineligible for U.S government money.

At a U.N. meeting last week marking the anniversary of the Beijing conference, the United States joined nations around the world in reaffirming a blueprint to achieve equality for women after backing down on a proposed anti-abortion amendment.

U.S. Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey said Washington abandoned the effort after receiving assurances the goals adopted at the 1995 conference did not create a new global right to abortion.

Bush opposes abortion except in cases of rape or incest or when pregnancy endangers a woman’s life.