[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/23/art.obama22.gi.jpg caption="Obama has reversed the Mexico City policy."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama will issue an executive order Friday afternoon reversing a controversial abortion policy from the past three Republican administrations, a senior administration official said.
The order comes the day after the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade - the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States.
The order reverses the "Mexico City policy," initiated by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, canceled by President Bill Clinton and reinstated by President George W. Bush in 2001.
The policy prohibits U.S. money from going to international family planning groups that promote or provide information, counseling, or referrals about abortion services. It says any organization that receives U.S. family planning funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) cannot offer abortions or abortion counseling.
The policy - referred to by critics as "the global gag rule" - was initially announced at a population conference that took place in Mexico City.
Reversing the previous administrations' stance on the policy was one of Clinton's first acts as president in January 1993 and the very first executive order issued by Bush on January 22, 2001 - the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Critics, including Planned Parenthood, called Bush's move a "legislative ambush."
He defended his action, saying, "It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortion or actively promote abortion."
The group Population Action International praised Obama's move, saying in a news release from spokesman Tod Preston that it will "save women's lives around the world."
"Family planning should not be a political issue; it's about basic health care and well-being for women and children," it said. "... Women's health has been severely impacted by the cutoff of assistance. President Obama's actions will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, abortions and women dying from high-risk pregnancies because they don't have access to family planning."