How to Honor Women: Take Away Their Choice?

The Republican plea to stop “activist judges” is just so much hooey. We saw that last week when South Dakota passed a near-complete ban on legal abortion for the purpose of forcing the issue of overturning the supposedly settled Roe v. Wade to be decided in court. Now, Mississippi is making the same move.

From the Associated Press:

The measure, which passed the House Public Health Committee on Tuesday, would allow abortion only to save a woman’s life. It would make no exception in cases of rape or incest.

[Mississippi Gov. Haley] Barbour, a Republican, said he preferred an exception in cases of rape and incest, but if such a bill came to his desk: “I suspect I’ll sign it.”

The full House could vote on the bill next week, and it would then go to the Senate.

A similar measure – along with a proposed state constitutional amendment – is being considered by Missouri’s legislature as well.

Pro-choice activists in other states are concerned.

California abortion rights advocates argued abortion is a women’s-health issue and should remain that way.

“At Planned Parenthood we believe very strongly that health care decisions should be made by women and their families, not politicians,” said Liz Hass, communications manager at Planned Parenthood Golden Gate.

Amy Everitt, the California director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, agreed and added [the South Dakota ban] will be a step back for women.

“What’s interesting is roughly 800 abortions happen in South Dakota annually. What you’re going to see is bans don’t stop women from getting abortions. It just makes it unsafe and illegal. What we’re going to see in South Dakota is a return to 1972 when women died from illegal, back alley abortions,” she said.

This will separate the haves from the have-nots in the area, Everitt said. Women who have the means to go out of state for the desired procedure will do so, leaving other women with little option, she added.

Writing in Slate, William Saletan warns that moves by individual state legislatures is only part of the right-wing plot to take away women’s rights and says it is time for pro-choicers to take a new approach:

For the first time in nearly 14 years, legal abortion in the United States is in serious jeopardy.

In recent days, the shape of this assault has become clear. First, on the morning of Justice Samuel Alito’s debut, the Supreme Court announced that it would review the constitutionality of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, setting up what pro-lifers hope will be the beginning of the end of Roe v. Wade. The next day, South Dakota lawmakers passed a ban on virtually all abortions, and pro-choicers vowed to litigate it all the way to the high court, which would force the justices either to overturn or reaffirm Roe. A few days later, the court told pro-choicers they could no longer use racketeering laws to halt blockades and protests at abortion clinics.

The impending legal battles put us on the verge of repeating the last two decades of the abortion war: pro-life victory, pro-choice backlash, pro-choice complacency, pro-life revival. At the end of the cycle 20 years from now, we’ll be right back where we are today. Unless, that is, we find a way out.

And that means moving beyond Roe. Politically, legally, and technologically, the 33-year-old court decision is increasingly obsolete as a framework for managing decisions about reproduction. But pro-lifers can’t launch the post-Roe era, because they’re determined to abolish its guarantee of individual autonomy, and the public won’t stand for that. Only pro-choicers can give the public what it wants: abortion reduction within a framework of autonomy.

Which is what pro-choice advocates are working to do: They want to convince lawmakers to change their focus from assaulting women’s rights to instituting common-sense measures (beyond unrealistic calls for abstinence) to prevent pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice America is running a new ad campaign challenging federal and state legislators to do exactly that. It calls for “an end to divisive attacks on women’s reproductive freedom, such as South Dakota’s ban on abortion, and instead focuses on sensible, effective ways to prevent unintended pregnancies.”

Pro-Choicers need to step up and fight for women's rights. Says Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, “We should improve women’s access to birth control, including the ‘morning-after’ pill; give our teenagers honest, realistic sex education; and increase support for family-planning services. These proposals enjoy strong support from pro-choice and pro-life Americans alike. Our message is simple: Stop playing politics with women’s reproductive freedom and unite behind these commonsense measures.”

Sounds like a plan. If you really want to make International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month count, you’ll start contacting lawmakers and governors and demanding that they stand to defend a woman’s right to choose and work for pregnancy prevention rather than nuking reproductive freedoms and the rights to privacy and self-determination.

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4 thoughts on “How to Honor Women: Take Away Their Choice?

  1. Access to contraceptives is not an option the SD right will accept; the drafters of this legislation not only banned abortion, they defined life as beginning at fertilization. Why? Because birth control pills, Norplant, patches, and IUDs can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. To many in the anti-choice front, these are “micro abortions”.

    This is not only an attack on abortion, it’s an attack on birth control. And I think it’s time we started talking about that.

  2. greetings from innerspace:

    well, i think that the ban on abortions in SD and, perhaps, in Mississippi stands to reason. it’s the natural pushback resulting from 30 years of abortion on demand. like it or not, there is a strong constituency of people who don’t think 30 years of Roe has been altogether good for the US.

    i don’t understand how the pro-abortion side doesn’t see this. it’s simply a matter of push and pull, and the pro-abortion lobby has been unrelenting since Roe was decided: all women are entitled to abortions and there should be no discussion about alternatives, about responsibility, about the nature of the decision to be made.

    from my perspective as a Buddhist, terminating a pregnancy has significant karmic implications as this decision affects more than just the woman making it. there can be absolutely NO disagreement (unless one is totally bound by ignorance) that the conglomeration of cells created by the union of sperm and egg constitutes a form of living energy (this is indisputable: we acknowledge cellular activity as life in *every* other circumstance, but somehow people have managed to make a perverse exception in the case of pregnancy). to willfully kill this life is to engender a karmic response–not a punishment, not a judgement, simply an effect related to a cause–of equal proportions. to willfully ignore the fundamental Universal law of cause and effect (i.e. karma) is, in a word, foolish.

    the women i’ve known who’ve ended their pregnancies through abortion are all, to the individual, scarred, hurt, and regretful about their choice. yes, it was theirs to make, and yes, it is their karma to take on, but no one in the pro-abortion side has, to my knowledge, ever accomodated for the fact that terminating a pregnancy might not be a good choice; perhaps it should be a choice that, as Bill Clinton has said, should be “safe, legal, and EXTREMELY RARE” (emphasis added). but, no, sadly the absolutists control the debate and frame abortion the same way some frame the right to bear arms. absolutism doesn’t do anyone any favours.

    quite frankly, i think the two sides are acting in similarly foolish ways. both the anti-abortion (i’ll not call them pro-life, as many in the camp are also pro-war, pro-capital punishment, pro-globalism, anti-living wage, anti-welfare, etc.) and the pro-abortion sides are unwilling to seek a middle way. neither wing of the wingnut army wishes to cede any territory to reason or dialogue. it’s all “we want all or nothing.” of course, such thinking is emblematic of a country and a culture that seems practically inocculated against any kind of critical thinking.

    i do not identify with either side in the fracas over terminating pregnancies. i am not in a position to play judge and jury in the lives of folks who face the questions of an unplanned or perhaps unwanted pregnancy. but i do know, as a man who has lost three children to the “choice,” that it’s not just a simple procedure, the choice affects more than just the woman making it (i continue to mourn the deaths of my children who, had they been offered a chance at full manifestation, would have been 15, 10, and 6, respectively), it’s not some magic bullet, and it’s certainly not a good alternative for anyone involved: woman, man, or foetus.

    i bring this up because i want to see more self-professed leftists engage in an actual debate and discussion over abortion. i think that real dialogue has been replaced by an ethos of “us-versus-them” and it’s got to stop. clearly there are people in our society (myself among them) who view abortion as a horrible affront to Life; who view war, poverty, and abuses of all kinds as equally offensive. the problem is that the left has bound itself to a dogmatic defence of an indefensible act: the taking of human life.

    if you’re anti-war and pro-abortion, you’re an absolute hypocrite. one cannot be simultaneously for the preservation of life while working for its systematic destruction. perhaps the “choice” people would do well to engage in some actual thought on this issue, instead of knee-jerk defence of abortion. i do agree that there are extremists on the anti-abortion side who’d have us only making babies instead of making love, but their reaction is, to me, just as understandable (if regrettable) as folks who think the best means to avoid pregnancy is found in an after-the-fact method rather than something, like contraception, that would prevent the need for an abortion in the first place.

    so, if you think that the news from SD and MISS is alarming, perhaps you would do well to step back from the desire to react and, instead, seize the opportunity to understand. Buddhism teaches that one’s environment cannot be separated from one’s self. the folks who are opposed to abortion are not separate from you; they ARE you. seeking kinship with one’s enemies, seeking understanding with one’s foes is the path to resolving differences. simply offering strident defence, harsh rhetoric, and empty slogans will engender nothing but the same results we’ve slogged through for (at least) 30 years.

    from this Buddhists point of view, there is only one real position to occupy: to value and protect life in all of its manifestations, stages, and forms. if we could, as a nation, take on this edict as our personal ethos, we could change the world.

    stop the violence? absolutely. increase the peace? absolutely. but that twin goal is dependent upon a real understanding of and deep value for life.

    Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.
    Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

    with my deepest respect,


  3. Howdy stranger… I don’t disagree with a word you said. There’s a difference between pro-choice and pro-abortion. And that is what many see as being in danger: choice. But you are right: Emphasis must be turned to pregnancy prevention, which should be the primary effort anyway.

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