04 June 2003

Republican Congress Disregards Women's Health...So What Else is New?

The House will likely vote today on a measure the Senate has already approved to ban the so-called "partial-birth abortion" procedure. As one of today's New York Times editorials points out, the law is incredibly broad. It has the potential to ban all abortion procedures in the second and third trimesters and lacks any provision to provide an exception to save the life or health of the mother. (This is because Congress has decided to play doctor and the bill actually contains language explaining that there is no life-threatening pregnancy in which this particular procedure would be necessary: "[partial-birth abortion] is never medically indicated to preserve the health of the mother." Somehow all those Republican Congressmen went out and became OB/GYNs when I was not looking.)

What is truly disturbing here is that no one seems to want to talk about women. Earlier the President signed a bill giving health coverage to fetuses but not to mothers (!). Now, Bush is poised to sign a bill in which the "life" of a fetus trumps the life, health, and decision-making processes of women. An article in today's Washington Post makes a similar point: Then there are situations arising from the availability of medical technology that permits a previously impossible glimpse inside the womb. Amniocentesis, which doctors urge for women over 35 because of the heightened risk of birth defects, is not performed until the 15th or 16th week of pregnancy. Other fetal defects may be detected on sonograms only at that stage or later. This puts women squarely in the zone where partial-birth abortion becomes an awful possibility. In effect, Congress is inserting itself into women's health-related decision-making by effectively taking the place of doctors--with potentially tragic results.

Right now I can feel the fists of a group of old white men closing inexorably on my uterus as they pass laws also upheld by old white men about what I can and cannot do with my own body, even to protect it. Some of my friends wonder why I feel so strongly about the policy administrations of this administration--and to me it all comes down to whether or not the laws of this country will continue to see me as a person or simply as a pod by which other people enter the world. And if anyone out there thinks this isn't a political power play to gain control of women's bodies, I refer you to the Family Research Council whose most recent circular claims that "With this bill, we are beginning to dismantle, brick by brick, the deadly edifice created by Roe v. Wade."


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