The abortion issue is one of those hot-button topics that are routinely used by some politicians and their religious political extremist allies to mobilize certain voters. The outcome of the November 2 Presidential and Congressional elections will largely determine the direction the nation will go as to whether women will remain first-class citizens and continue to have control over their own bodies or whether the state will dictate to them what they must do. Hopefully, Roe v. Wade will not ultimately be overturned by an increasingly extremist right-wing Supreme Court and no anti-abortion amendment will be eventually added to the U.S. Constitution.
First of all, let’s get the use of the McCarthyism tactic out of the way: The Big Lie that being Pro-Choice is the same as being Pro-Abortion is nonsense. To support a woman’s right to choose whether to have a child or to terminate her pregnancy is clearly not the same as actually advocating that she have an abortion. I know of no politician who opposes anti-abortion amendments who also recommends abortions! This is certainly true of our own senators Lincoln and Pryor. In fact, religious groups are often encouraged to offer counseling, but their failure to always convince should not result in their beliefs becoming the law of the land.
It takes any man a lot of gall and audacity to want to order any woman to go through something that he will never have to face. He will never have to experience the physiological and psychological changes that a woman endures during a pregnancy. He is free to persuade, but he should not be allowed to command.
Should any woman be required by the state to have a child regardless of any of her personal circumstances? What if her health is poor? What if she is a victim of rape or incest? What is her age, her family support group, her family plan, her educational level or plan, her job status or professional plan, or her income? Whether to give birth or to terminate a pregnancy is a decision that should be made by the woman, with the help of those whose advice she values, and not by the government.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned and/or an anti-abortion amendment is passed, it is hard to imagine any good coming from criminalizing abortion again. It certainly will not end abortions; it will just make abortions less safe: it will mean a return to the secrecy of coat hangers and back alleys. The probable loss or weakening of family planning programs will undoubtedly lead to overpopulation, increased poverty, more sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS here in the U.S.
The only beneficiaries will be the politicians who campaign against “immorality,” the welfare state, and in particular, welfare moms: they will always have plenty of ammunition in order to get votes. Already the current administration has refused to support the International Conference on Population and Development because the conference’s statement supports women’s sexual and reproductive rights. Even though 22 former world leaders such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton signed it, the U.S., unfortunately and embarrassingly, will not be the leader of the 85 nations whose leaders support it. Other than this being a deliberate attempt to keep many countries from developing (thereby keeping them dependent on the U.S. for assistance) or this being another attempt to secure the support of religious political extremists at home, the administration’s motives are unclear. Also, I hope we can all agree that “She had the fun, so she must accept the consequences of her actions” or “She committed the sin, so she must pay the price” are attitudes that do not promote healthy family values.
Bill Clinton wisely vetoed the so-called Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act because it provided for no exceptions being made for the health of the mother. The U.S. Supreme Court, and even plain old common sense, has made it clear that the woman’s health must be considered in laws pertaining to abortion. The same bill was passed again, and the current President signed it! Showing great courage and responsibility during an election year, Arkansas’s Senator Lincoln and Representative Snyder each opposed this travesty. What were the Republican Congress and President thinking? Knowing the law should be and certainly would be overturned in the courts, what were their motives? Presuming that they don’t hate women in general, were they cynically keeping a controversial issue alive so as to mobilize a particular voting bloc on Election Day?
Regrettably, proponents of an anti-abortion amendment are continuing the recent trend of attempting to write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution. This is yet another attempt to reverse the admirable tradition of amending the Constitution to expand rights. This will deny women rights that they previously had. We should not return to a time when an infamous Arkansas public official proclaimed that women were supposed to be “barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.”
Isn’t it ironic to hear the U.S. President (George W. Bush) condemn the rulings on abortion of those he calls “activist” judges when he owes his own job to five “activist” judges on the U.S. Supreme Court who incredibly ruled that democracy was too important to make sure that every eligible person’s vote was counted? Isn’t it also ironic for the American President to announce “Freedom is on the march” and brag about making it possible for women to be able to vote for the first time in Afghanistan while he actively seeks to take away women’s freedom here at home? Is it irony, or is it hypocrisy and a tragedy?
by David Offutt
A version of this essay was published November 6, 2004,
in the El Dorado News-Times as a letter to the editor.