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January 22, 2008

Blog for Choice Day 2008

Today - on the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade - we are participating in Blog for Choice Day!

Blog for Choice Day

Blog for Choice Day provides us with an opportunity to raise the profile of reproductive rights in the blogosphere and the media, while celebrating Roe's 35th anniversary. Plus, it's a great way to let your readers and the mainstream media know that a woman's right to choose is a core progressive value that must be protected.

Last year we wrote about why we are pro-choice. This year's topic is why it is important to vote pro-choice. And on the other side, why it's so important not to vote anti-choice (or "pro-life" as the anti-choicers like to call themselves).

1) Because these men are all running for President right now...

John McCain:
"I think the respect and commitment to the rights of the unborn is something I've fought for, and it has a lot to do with national security. Because it says very much what kind of a country we are and our respect for human life, whether it be here in the US or anyplace else in the world. So I think it is connected."

"I have stated time after time after time that Roe v. Wade was a bad decision, that I support the rights of the unborn."
I don’t believe they should advocate abortion with my tax dollars."

Mitt Romney:
"I was always personally opposed to abortion, as I think almost everyone in this nation is. And the question for me was, what is the role of government? And it was quite theoretical and philosophical to consider what the role of government should be in this regard, and I felt that the Supreme Court had spoken and that government shouldn't be involved and let people make their own decision. That all made a lot of sense to me. Then I became governor and the theoretical became reality. A bill came to my desk which related to the preservation of life. I recognized that I simply could not be part of an effort that would cause the destruction of human life. And I didn't hide from that change of heart. I recognize it's a change. Every piece of legislation which came to my desk in the coming years as the governor, I came down on the side of preserving the sanctity of life."
"...each law that was brought to my desk attempted to expand abortion rights and, in each case, I vetoed that effort. I also promoted abstinence education in our schools. I vetoed an effort, for instance, to give young women a morning after pill who did not have prescriptions. So I took action to preserve the sanctity of life. But I did not violate my word, of course."
"I'd like to see Roe v. Wade overturned and allow the states to put in place pro-life legislation. I recognize that for many people, that is considered an act of murder, to have an abortion. It is without question the taking of a human life. And I believe that a civilized society must respect the sanctity of the human life."

Mike Huckabee:
"I would love to see us have in this country what I helped lead in our state in Arkansas, and that's a human life amendment to our state constitution, Amendment 65, that says that we believe life begins at conception, and that we ought to do everything in the world possible to protect it until its natural conclusion. And that means that we truly value and respect, elevate and celebrate every life."
"I always am going to err on the side of life. I believe life is precious. I hav been in the pro-life camp since I was a teenager. It's because of my view that God is the creator and instigator of life."
"It would be fair to say that I am in politics because I am pro-life. By no means am I a single-issue person, but on that single issue I am steadfastly consistent."
"The record I am proudest of is having signed numerous pieces of pro-life legislation, including a ban on partial-birth abortion."

Fred Thompson:
"What the situation is now is as follows. Because of Roe vs. Wade, all states are restricted from passing rules that they otherwise would maybe like to pass with regard to this area. If you abolish Roe vs. Wade, you're going to allow every state to pass reasonable rules that they might see fit to pass. There hasn't been a serious effort to put forth a constitutional amendment because people knew that it wouldn't pass. What I've been talking about is directing our energy toward something that was halfway practical, something that might could get done. So now where we have no states with the option of doing anything about it, then we would have however many states wanted to. You could move from zero yard line, to the 60- or 70-yard line instead of standing pat, which is where we will remain if we don't abolish Roe vs. Wade."

"I thought Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. I think this platform originally came out as a response to particularly Roe v. Wade because of that. Before Roe v. Wade, states made those decisions. I think people ought to be free at state and local levels to make decisions that even Fred Thompson disagrees with. That's what freedom is all about. I think Roe v. Wade hopefully one day will be overturned, and we can go back to the pre-Roe v. Wade day."

Ron Paul:
"I'm surprised that I don't have more co-sponsors for my Sanctity of Life Act. It removes the jurisdiction from the federal courts & allows the states to pass protection to the unborn. Instead of waiting years for a Constitutional Amendment, this would happen immediately, by majority vote in the Congress and a president's signature. It's a much easier way to accomplish this, by following what our Constitution directs us. Instead of new laws, let's just use what we have & pass this type of legislation."

"As an O.B. doctor of thirty years, and having delivered 4,000 babies, I can assure you life begins at conception. I am legally responsible for the unborn, no matter what I do, so there's a legal life there. The unborn has inheritance rights, and if there's an injury or a killing, there is a legal entity. There is no doubt about it."

"The first thing we have to do is get the federal government out of it. We don't need a federal abortion police. That's the last thing that we need. There has to be a criminal penalty for the person that's committing that crime. And I think that is the abortionist."

2) Because all of these news headlines are just from the last two weeks....

Cutbacks in Family Planning Foster US Baby Boomlet
A report released last month by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reflects that that the 2006 birth rate exceeded the replacement rate for the first time since 1971 reports the Daily Women’s Health Policy Report. An Associated Press analysis of the birth rate globally reflects that the U.S. birth rate is higher than “every country in continental Europe, as well as Australia, Canada and Japan.

A Kansas Grand Jury convened on Tuesday to begin an investigation into Dr George Tiller, one of the few late-term abortion providers for women with troubled pregnancies and complicated health problems. The investigation is the result of a citizen petition circulated by anti-abortion extremist groups.

Young Americans Support Anti-Abortion Movement At Washington Gathering
The rise in number of anti-abortion movements on campuses has dovetailed with a recent report that in the past 30 years, there was a steady decline in abortions performed across the nation. On Tuesday, thousands of student activist started the three-day annual March for Life gathering in Washington, marked by speeches, prayer vigils, masses and other spiritual activities. Student for Life chapters are present in over 400 American colleges and universities. The support for anti-abortion campaigns is not limited to Catholic or church organizations. Even feminists and male groups are in.

Anti-abortion Advocates Organize Events In San Francisco Area to Address Issue In Black Community
Black antiabortion advocates planned to host three events in the San Francisco Bay Area in an "aggressive push" to reduce the disproportionate number of abortions among black women, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Rev. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP, said San Francisco's "top civil rights issues are education, economic empowerment and political engagement," adding, "These pro-life people are demagogues and ideologues and are not receiving overwhelming support from the black community".

3) Because the following legislative decisions were made this month...

The Senate Health Committee passed a proposal that would give pharmacists the right to refuse to dispense drugs they believe will be used to abort a pregnancy or "destroy an unborn child". Critics are wary of this bill because it could be interpreted to include refusal to dispense emergency contraception and even birth control pills, because it does not give a clear definition of what constitutes an "unborn child".

Other proposed legislation would require doctors to tell abortion patients: "Life begins at conception, and a fetus could feel pain during an abortion." Supporters of the bill say this is to make sure women considering abortion have all the facts they need to make an "informed decision". Critics of the bill object to the notion of defining life at conception and presenting the theory that a fetus can feel pain during an abortion as fact (there are differing medical opinions on the subject).

The Senate Health Policy Committee passed legislation to enact a state ban on "partial-birth abortion" (mirroring a federal prohibition that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year).

A measure requiring women seeking an abortion would first have to undergo an ultrasound and review the results with their doctors, was proposed in the General Assembly. Physicians who don't comply could be fined up to $100,000 for the first offense and $250,000 for each subsequent offense.

Senate Republicans have taken up a controversial proposal to change the state's constitutional stance on abortions. The proposed amendment would say that “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion.” The resolution aims to nullify a 2000 ruling by the state Supreme Court that the Tennessee Constitution offered greater protection of abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution and could allow the restoration of restrictive laws (such as requiring a 48-hour waiting periods before abortions, detailed disclosure about the abortion process and that all but first-term abortions be performed in hospitals).

The Colorado Supreme Court gave the go-ahead to proponents of a ballot initiative seeking to amend the state constitution in 2008
to define "personhood" as a fertilized egg. The amendment, if approved by voters, would extend constitutional protections from the moment of conception, guaranteeing every fertilized egg the right to life, liberty, equality of justice and due process of law. Critics of the measure feel it would lay the foundation to making abortion illegal in Colorado.

The Elliot Group, an anti-abortion group based out of Springfield, Illinois, is seeking to add a ballot initiative to the Missouri 2008 election that could greatly reduce access to abortion in the state. The Elliot Group claims that abortion causes long-term physical, psychological and emotional problems. The proposal would require doctors to extensively review any so-called "medical literature" on abortion and investigate each patient’s background and lifestyle. It also would require doctors to certify that the abortion was necessary to avoid a woman's death or prevent permanent disability. The proposal would subject doctors to lawsuits from women who later regretted their decision to terminate a pregnancy, and would offer no exception whatsoever for the victims of rape or incest.

4) Because this is what can happen in countries where abortion is illegal...

Despite tough anti-abortion laws, an estimated 1.3 million women have them each year, mostly illegally, usually due to economic inabilities to care for another child. Often these back alley abortions come with painful "consequences" including death of the mother or deformed babies (who survived botched abortion attempts).

In July, it was reported that some 100 women die annually from botched illegal abortions, while many more suffer serious health problems. About 11 percent of all maternal deaths registered in the nation's capitol were a result of illegal abortions, making it the third leading cause of maternal mortality in Mozambique (which has one of the highest maternal death rates in the world).

Last February Portugal's prime minister announced that he would try to enact more liberal abortion laws. Originally the procedure was only allowed in cases of rape, fetal malformation, or if a mother's health was in peril (and only in first 12 weeks of pregnancy) and around 10,000 women were hospitalized every year with complications from botched back-street abortions. (Later in the year, the parliament approved a motion to hold a referendum on the decriminalization of abortion).

Official estimates in 2005 put annual abortions at 400,000 to 500,000, and rising. The World Health Organization estimate put the figure at nearly 800,000, one of the highest rates of unsafe abortions in Asia. Seventy percent of unwanted pregnancies in the Philippines end in abortion according to the World Health Organization. One of four pregnancies in the Philippines end in abortion, according to Pro-Life Philippines, an anti-abortion group. According to the Department of Health, nearly 100,000 women who have unsafe abortions every year end up in the hospital. Some hospitals would refuse to treat women for abortion-related illnesses like profuse bleeding because they view them as "sinners" and in a few instances doctors have performed post-abortion dilation and curettage without anesthesia as a punishment for these women's sins.

Nicaragua, Chile, El Salvador, Malta, Vatican City:
Abortion in these countries is illegal without exception. This means that you cannot legally have an abortion if you are a victim of rape or incest. You cannot legally have an abortion if you suffer complications that threaten your health or future fertility. You cannot legally have an abortion if you suffer life-threatening complications. Women go to jail, suffer, and die because of the laws of their land.

And when reproductive rights are granted...

South Africa:
After South Africa removed restrictions on abortion in 1997, maternal deaths from botched abortions dropped 91 percent.

5) Because these pro-choice victories are only a small step towards protecting our rights...

The Chicago Abortion Fund has begun providing vouchers (accepted by local abortion providers) to help low-income women who can't afford legal abortion. Medicaid does not cover abortion and many women live too far away from a facility that provides it. The Chicago Abortion Fund is one of 104 groups affiliated with the National Network of Abortion Funds (such as Haven in New York or Fund for Choice in Pennsylvania).

This month former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack launched the Iowa Initiative to Reduce Unitended Pregnancies, a program focused on overall awareness and helping women between the ages of 18 and 30 receive family planning information. While the group will not provide contraception and services directly, it does intended to partner with existing groups that do and, hopefully, prompt the public to request funding for such services from the state legislature.

2007 saw a big jump in the number of states rejecting federal funding for abstinence only sex education programs, in the wake of growing evidence that these programs just do not work. We think of this as a big pro-choice victory. Young women (and men) deserve comprehensive sex education that will give them the tools they need to make informed choices and have safe sex. Access to accurate information about sex, followed by access to birth control--this is the way to truly reduce unplanned pregnancies and improve the quality of life for a whole lot of people.

The Supreme Court recently refused to review a challenge to a court ruling that struck down a ban on "partial-birth abortions" in the state of Michigan. The ban has been struck down three times because although supporters of the ban say that it is only meant to prohibit certain specific abortion procedures, opponents say that the wording of the ban is too vague and could be applied to all abortions, potentially putting abortion providers at risk of prosecution for performing any abortion procedure. Organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposed the ban not only because of the threat to doctors, but also because they viewed the legislation as a threat to women's health.

NARAL Pro-Choice America recently released its 17th annual "Who Decides? The Status of Women's Reproductive Rights in the United States," which tracks legal activity on the state and federal levels that is related to reproductive rights. They are reporting that in 2007, 28 states enacted a total of 80 pro-choice measures, a 43-percent increase from 2006. States enacted 17 Prevention First measures (Prevention First means things like sex education, access to birth control, emergency contraception, etc.) in 2007, an 89-percent increase from 2006.

Some days it feels like we're making progress and heading in the right direction when it comes to reproductive rights. Other days, especially lately, it feels like we're sliding backwards and at risk of losing it all. But when we think about all of the people who fought for the rights that we have today, who are out there now working for freedom of choice all around the world, and especially the women who have suffered and died because their rights were taken away from them, we know that voting pro-choice is the least we can do. This is our fight, and voting for choice is just the first step.

1 comment:

May said...

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