Now that five men have dramatically shifted the abortion debate, everyone should understand why pro-choice activists make abortion a litmus test for candidates for state and national office. And from this moment forward, CityBeat will never downplay threats to a woman's right to control what happens to her body. The war-it's on.
President Bush has fulfilled the greatest fears of Americans who believe that, unsavory though abortion might be, women must have safe, legal access to it. He replaced one anti-choice Supreme Court justice and one pro-choice justice with two anti-choice justices, thereby shifting the court's previous 5-4 pro-choice vote count to a 5-4 count in the other direction. Thanks in part to the Senate Democrats who voted against the Samuel Alito filibuster, the protections some of us took for granted are things of the past.
Specifically, the Supreme Court has long held that Legislators did not have the right to ban an abortion procedure in the event a doctor determines it's necessary to protect a woman's health. In the Gonzales v. Carhart ruling last week, the Supremes rejected a challenge to the 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act ('partial-birth' being a construct of the anti-choice movement), which does not contain such an exception.
The procedure banned in the federal law-known to doctors as 'intact dilation and extraction'-is uncommon; in fact, Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside Counties doesn't use it. So, the direct impact of the ruling is relatively minor, notwithstanding the importance of those few cases when women need third-trimester abortions for health reasons. But the indirect, slippery-slope impact could be huge, pro-choice activists say.
'Politicians have been given a power by the court that is superior to the best medical schools in our country, based on nothing more than an allegation that there is divided medical opinion about the appropriateness of the procedure,' Vince Hall, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside Counties, told CityBeat this week.
Forces hostile to women's reproductive freedom, led by the religious right, reacted to the ruling by saying they're energized, which is reason for us pro-choice citizens to become more vigilant and involved. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security just because Justices Alito and Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts declined to sign a concurring opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas and signed by Justice Antonin Scalia saying it's time to overthrow Roe v. Wade.
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a reliable pro-choice vote, is 87. It's likely that the next president, especially if he or she is a two-termer, will choose Stevens' successor. As we get closer to the 2008 election, keep an eye on the polls. If California appears safely in the hands of a pro-choice candidate, find out where the swing states are and send your campaign contributions-whether $10 or $1,000-where they're needed most. But don't forget about the state Legislature. Democrats aren't automatically pro-choice.
Go to www.planned.org, the local Planned Parenthood website, and register to receive information, including scorecards on elected officials and alerts about candidates' responses to questionnaires. Also, www.saveroe.org, the main Planned Parenthood site, will fill you in on national news and give you tips on how to take action. More websites: National Organization for Women (www.now.org), NARAL (www.naral.org), American Civil Liberties Union (www.aclu.org), Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health (www.prch.org) and Feminist Majority Fund (www.feminist.org).
And we can never let this self-serving opportunity pass when this topic reemerges: If you read the San Diego Reader or you advertise in that publication, and you care about reproductive rights, you should know that Reader editor and publisher Jim Holman is one of California's foremost crusaders against safe and legal access to abortion. Ad revenue pays Holman's salary, which he uses to finance both his anti-gay, anti-choice publication, San Diego News Notes, and his now-annual attempts to limit access to abortion via the ballot box. Do with that knowledge what you will.
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