22 January 2006

Blog for Choice Day

Today is the 33rd anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

Roe is six years older than I am, making me a member of the privileged generation of women who have enjoyed complete reproductive autonomy. Because of Roe and its precedent decision, Griswold vs. Connecticut (1965) which struck down state laws banning the use of hormonal birth control, I enjoy the ability to control my fertility--a privilege I think I can safely say is historically unprecedented for women. I think it likely though, that Roe will shortly be overturned or be rendered moot by various state laws that so restrict abortion as to make impossible to obtain one. This will be a catastrophe for women--and it's a catastrophe that women of my generation, who have been so privileged in their ability to choose for themselves, are completely unprepared for. We have never had to face restrictions on birth control, or back alley or coat hanger abortions.
I find it hard to be passive on the issue of abortion, because I think bound up in all the rhetoric surrounding it are two fundamentally different approaches to the position of women in society. Anti-choicers are not motivated by a respect for life (generally speaking) but by a desperate desire to control women. If you think I am exaggerating, I invite you to go observe any women's health clinic (even those that don't perform abortions) in your town on a day when the protestors are lined up outside. I guarantee you'll come away from the experience with an entirely new perspective.

I have come to the conclusion that to give further ground on abortion will impact women negatively on a number of other levels. Already state governments don't trust us enough to make our own decisions so that we have to wait 24 hours, or beg a judge, or sneak across state lines. For me that's a short trip from the choice between a forced pregnancy and an illegal abortion--no choice at all.

With the growing threat that Roe will be overturned, I'd like to suggest that women try a new tactic--let us throw our collective support behind passage of the Freedom of Choice Act. This would short-circuit complaints about judicial activism and the constitutional right to abortion by enshrining the right to legal abortion in federal law. I would also suggest that Democrats make FOCA an issue in 2006 and 2008. Since the majority of Americans, while ambivalent about abortion morally, believe that abortion should nevertheless remain legal, this should appeal to voters who are sick of Supreme Court confirmation hearings in which all the participants carefully avoid the elephant in the room--Roe vs. Wade.


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