Published on Thursday, November 14, 2002 by the San Francisco Chronicle
Attack on Abortion
by Ruth Rosen
THIS IS AN open plea to young women. I know you think abortion rights have been won. I know you take for granted the right to choose when and whether to bear a child. But now those reproductive rights are under attack and it's your turn to carry the torch. It's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. It's time to organize and march in the streets.
I also understand why you feel complacent. We live in the most pro-choice state in the nation; we even have a constitutional amendment that would supersede any U.S. Supreme Court decision that strikes down a woman's right to abortion.
But such complacency is terribly shortsighted. You may move to another state. Abortion foes could start a campaign to repeal our state amendment. And President Bush will have the opportunity to nominate two or three new Supreme Court justices, who will decide the future of Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that gave American women abortion rights.
"Even if Roe. vs. Wade is not overturned," says Carole Joffe, an expert on reproductive rights and visiting professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UCSF, "there is much that Bush can do to eviscerate existing abortion rights. Extremist Bush appointees in the FDA will very likely attempt to restrict access to RU-486, the 'abortion pill,' as well as emergency contraception. John Ashcroft's Justice Department could refuse to prosecute those who commit acts of anti-abortion violence. These things will impact all California women."
You may not realize it, but the Bush administration has been waging a steady campaign to establish legal personhood for the fetus and to restrict women's reproductive rights both here and around the world:
-- The United States withheld $34 million from the U.N.'s Population Fund that offers contraceptive and reproductive services (but not abortions) to women in other countries.
-- The Bush administration recently joined Islamic fundamentalists and the Vatican in opposing the Program of Action adopted at the United Nation's Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994 that sought to improve women's reproductive choices and educational opportunities.
-- Joined by Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Syria and the Vatican, the United States voted to oppose sex education to fight teen pregnancy and AIDS because it included the use of condoms.
-- New administration directives have given the unborn embryo health benefits (but not mothers or children once they're born) and endowed it with the same rights that protect other "human subjects" involved in scientific research.
-- The Republican-dominated Senate will now consider a slew of House-passed bills: the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (which gives legal status to a fetus hurt or killed when a federal crime is committed); and the Child Custody Protection Act (which makes it a crime to take a minor out-of-state for an abortion in violation of a state's parental notification laws).
Joffe rightfully worries that too many of us are oblivious to these attacks on reproductive rights. "If younger women, who have never experienced adult life without legal abortion, do not become active in the struggle to protect both the right and access to abortion, this essential component of women's health could be lost for generations to come."
So what can you do? Get informed, know your rights and act to protect them. Click on the "Ten Minute Activist" on the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League's Web site, www.naral.org, or go to Choice USA, www.choiceusa.org, an organization of younger women. Abortion foes have gained great momentum; you've got no time to lose.
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle