WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (AP) - Abortion protesters marching in Washington Monday promised legislative fights and cheered President Bush's first major action in office - overruling an abortion-friendly policy by his predecessor.

At the same time, abortion-rights groups girded for battle. The president of the National Organization for Women said Bush had removed the ``moderate mask that he wore during the election'' by ruling out U.S. cooperation with many family-planning organizations abroad.

``Read My Lips - No More Partial-Birth Abortion'' proclaimed a sign held by Randi Grantham of Wellington, Fla., demonstrating in a smiling Bush mask. The 36-year-old sculptor's sign had a more ominous flip side: ``It's War! Baby.''

Bush imposed strict restrictions Monday on U.S. funds to international family-planning groups involved in abortion, even counseling people about it or lobbying governments about it. The order was similar to a policy of Bush's president father, which President Clinton had overturned when he took office in 1993.

Bush's move coincided with a demonstration by thousands carrying signs that read ``Defend Life'' and ``Stop Abortion Now.'' The march to the Supreme Court is an annual rite of protest against Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide 28 years ago.

``It is not respectable for people who advocate and tolerate abortion to be in high positions of government,'' Nellie Gray, president of March for Life Fund, told the annual abortion protest rally her group has sponsored since 1974.

There was something different this year: President Bush, an abortion opponent sworn in two days earlier, welcomed and encouraged the protesters.

``Two days ago, Americans gathered on the Washington Mall to celebrate our nation's ideals. Today, you are gathered to remind our country that one of those ideals is the infinite value of every life,'' Bush said in a message read by Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., an outspoken abortion foe.

Abortion opponents hope to take advantage of the new political landscape to push a Republican-controlled Congress and White House they expect will be more sympathetic to overturning Roe v. Wade.

Bush told the crowd he appreciated their efforts.

``We share a great goal: to work toward a day when every child is welcomed in life and protected in law,'' his message said. ``We know this will not come easily, or all at once. But the goal leads us onward: to build a culture of life, affirming that every person, at every stage and season of life, is created equally in God's image.''

A big cheer went up when the crowd was told that Bush had signed the executive memorandum Monday to reverse Clinton's decision to restore federal financing of international family-planning groups that offer abortion or abortion counseling. Bush's action, which covers even groups that use their own money to pay for abortions or abortion counseling, effectively reinstates a policy that President Reagan put into place and Bush's father continued.

Clinton supported abortion rights and thwarted opponents' attempts to curb access to the procedure. Twice during his presidency, he vetoed legislation to outlaw a late-term procedure described by its critics as partial-birth abortion.

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, told marchers the measure would be reintroduced. ``He will sign it, not veto it,'' he said of Bush.

Abortion-rights advocates criticized the march.

``They don't represent the majority of people in this country who are pro-choice and pro-family planning and who voted for the pro-choice candidate,'' said Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.

``George W. Bush has ripped away any remnant of a moderate mask that he wore during the election,'' Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women, told about 200 people at a candlelight vigil outside the court Monday night.

They held signs such as ``Keep Abortion Legal'' and ``Fight the Radical Right'' and chanted against former Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft, Bush's choice for attorney general.

Despite some setbacks, abortion foes seem energized and expect Bush to move quickly to overturn several Clinton administration policies.

Another candidate for reversal is government approval of the RU-486 abortion pill. Anti-abortion advocates also want a ban on federal funding for research involving fetal tissue or the destruction of human embryos, including stem cell research.

Two narrow Supreme Court rulings disappointed anti-abortion advocates last year. Voting 5-4, the justices struck down Nebraska's law banning the ``partial-birth'' late-term abortion procedure. The court, by 6-3, also gave states greater authority to restrict anti-abortion demonstrators outside clinics.

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