Bush V. Roe V. Wade
On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Bush Administration is joining the abortion battle.
Thursday, January 23, 2003
Thirty years after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion, Planned Parenthood of Salinas last week became the first public health clinic in Monterey County to prescribe RU-486, the controversial abortion pil
Simultaneously, the White House issued a proclamation declaring Jan. 19 as a day celebrating the "sanctity of life."
January 22, the 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, will be marked by an intensification of the battle between anti-abortion activists and supporters of a woman''s right to choose. Now that Republicans control both Congress and the White House for the first time since Roe v. Wade, both sides anticipate new anti-abortion legislation at the federal level.
"Thirty years is a long time," says Sara Rosen, spokesperson for Congressman Sam Farr. "A lot of us grew up with Roe V. Wade being the status quo. Now, 30 years later, women''s right to legal abortions is in danger. This is something we need to protect. There are too many lives at stake. The fight''s not over."
Earlier this month, abortion opponents began a major push for new restrictions, beginning with a law making it a crime to cross state lines to avoid parental notification requirements, and another law banning a rare late-term medical procedure called dilation and extraction (D&X), which pro-lifers call "partial birth" abortions. The Supreme Court rejected an earlier version of this law three years ago.
Several other bills were passed last year by the Republican-controlled House and shot down by the then-Democrat-controlled Senate. These included the so-called Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, which would allow hospitals and clinics to refuse to provide patients with access to information about abortions, and to deny emergency contraception to rape victims.
Republicans also plan to reintroduce the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, legislation that would make it a separate crime to harm a fetus during an attack on a pregnant woman.
"And this is all likely to be re-introduced, and most likely passed, by this 108th Congress," Rosen says. "We will have to see how the Senate will react."
Strategists on Capital Hill expect Sen. Bill Frist, who replaced Sen. Trent Lott as Senate majority leader, to head the anti-abortion agenda. Frist has a long history of supporting a ban on the D&X procedure, and has received a 100-percent rating by the National Right to Life Committee for the last six years.
"The threat to reproductive choice is far greater than most people realize," says Cynthia Mathews, Planned Parenthood''s director of public affairs for Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. "The most profound threat comes from the potential for anti-choice appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court and federal courts throughout the country.
"It''s clear that Bush has made the anti-choice agenda part of his litmus test for judicial appointments, and these appointments are for life."
On Jan. 7, Bush renominated Federal District Court Judge Charles Pickering and Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals--both of whom were rejected by the 2002 Senate, in part because of their records on women''s rights.
The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) has predicted that if President Bush stays in office until 2008, Roe V. Wade is likely to be overturned by the end of the decade.
Pro-choice advocates are quick to point out that the Bush Administration isn''t limiting its attack to abortion.
"They''re casting a very wide net to restrict abortion and contraception," Mathews says. "And the agenda goes far beyond abortion rights. It extends to family planning and an aggressive push for abstinence-only education, which has been found to be useless at best.
"Overall, it''s an extremely repressive approach to sexuality and the rights of women--one that leaves us only in the company of a few fundamentalist Islamic nations. We are completely out of step with the world community on this. It''s us and Saudi Arabia."
Both Farr''s office and Planned Parenthood also express concern about Bush''s campaign to elevate the status of a fetus to that of a living person, with rights even exceeding those of pregnant women.
Two years into the Bush presidency, the Administration has taken several steps to roll back reproductive rights and block women''s access to health care and contraceptives.
- On his very first day in the Oval Office, Bush reimposed the global gag-rule that bars overseas health providers that receive American family planning assistance from counseling women about abortion. Rosen points out that Bush then took away $34 million appropriated by Congress to the United Nations'' Population Fund--money that was used for family planning.
- Bush''s 2002 proposed budget tried to cut the grants that provide health care to women before, during and after pregnancy. It also sought to eliminate funding for contraceptives in federal employees'' health benefits. Both of these moves were defeated.
- Last year, American delegates to the United Nations opposed a plan promising "reproductive health services" to young girls who are victims of war crimes--which usually means they were raped.
- Just last month, the Bush Administration''s delegates to a U.N. population conference tried unsuccessfully to block an endorsement of condom use to prevent AIDS.
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention''s Web site used to say that condoms can effectively protect against HIV. A newer version says "more research is needed," and replaces information about sex education with abstinence-only literature.
- The National Cancer Institute''s Web site used to say that there is "no association between abortion and breast cancer." A revised statement says "the evidence is inconclusive."
- In a letter written to Secretary of Health and Human Resources Tommy Thompson, 12 House Democrats argue that "information that used to be based on science is being systematically removed from the public when it conflicts with the administration''s political agenda." Farr was one of the 12.
"That''s why this is so scary," Rosen says. "Bush has given the Republican right wing a voice. It''s an all-out assault."