by Rebecca Doran – February, 2005
Jan. 22 marked the 32nd anniversary of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which made the right to abortion legal in all states. Anti-choice advocates took advantage of this date to spread their right-wing
agenda of so-called family values.
Bearing religious icons, American flags, and signs that claimed, “Abortion Hurts Women,” the first annual “Walk For Life West Coast” made its way through the streets of San Francisco. Some reports claim that nearly 6000 anti-choice demonstrators took part, though a large percentage traveled from outside of San Francisco.
Two days later, anti-choice groups marched on Washington and staged protests on Capitol Hill and in front of the Supreme Court building. President Bush addressed the demonstrators by phone from Camp David and praised their anti-choice agenda. He promised to work with Congress to pass “good, solid legislation to protect the vulnerable.”
As the anti-choice camp becomes more emboldened, a growing number of backhanded attempts to stifle women’s reproductive freedom are finding success in certain states. Texas and Mississippi are requiring women seeking abortion to read and sign a consent form affirming that they understand there is a link between breast cancer and abortion. And an additional 14 states are now introducing legislation that would make this practice mandatory.
The National Cancer Institute concluded in 2003, however, that “induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk.”
The double-edged sword of the Bush administration’s reproductive health care policy continues to thrust deeper into the heart of a woman’s right to choose.
With abstinence-only programs receiving $170 million annually, students are not permitted to learn the importance of birth control or condoms. Concurrently,
the FDA is denying women over-the-counter access to Emergency Contraception (EC).
In January, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a suit against the FDA after it had announced it would delay in deciding whether an EC called Plan B should be made available over the counter to women 16 and older. Last year, the FDA denied a request from Plan B’s manufacturers to make the product available without prescription to women of all ages.
Bush’s abstinence-only programs are proving to be highly unsuccessful and riddled with unscientific points that blur science with religion. These programs
will ultimately lead to thousands of unwanted pregnancies in the coming years.
In response to the Bush camp’s attacks on women, the Democratic Party seems to be weakening its already tired stance on the issue. On the heels of a proposal by former presidential nominee Howard Dean that the Democrats "embrace" anti-abortion voters, Hillary Clinton recently surprised pro-choice advocates when she reached out to anti-choice voters.
Clinton, widely seen as a possible candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2008, surprised an abortion rights group to which she spoke on Jan. 24. Offering warm words to opponents of legalized abortion and praising the influence of religious and moral values on delaying teenage girls from becoming sexually active, Clinton stated, “There is an opportunity for people of good faith to find common ground in this debate.”
Clinton’s weakening stance on reproductive freedom reflects a growing trend in the Democratic Party that places religion and patriarchal family values above women’s needs. This attempt to attract more right-wing voters has compromised the entire pro-choice movement.
A counter-protest to the San Francisco Walk for Life drew over 3000 pro-choice demonstrators. However, the march was poorly organized. While the anti-choice camp displayed a united front, the pro-choice demonstration
was lacking strong leadership and clear demands. This is a recurring issue since the main leaders of the pro-choice movement are tied closely to the Democratic Party.
The right wing is currently planning its Walk for Life 2006, while multiple anti-choice bills are being considered nationwide. Without a new, organized
pro-choice movement that is willing to free itself from the Democratic Party, the rights of women to receive safe reproductive health care and sex education—based on facts, not faith—will continue to be compromised.