Women’s rights are being jeopardized

W By Kristina Boraas

women across the United States should be wary of the recent resurgence in conservative politics. With a Republican-controlled Congress and White House, women’s rights are facing a considerable threat. A Republican influence reaching into all spheres of government means that abolishing hard-won women’s rights will now be at the forefront of the political agenda. A majority of Congress now opposes abortion, and by continuing the precedent set over the past few years, the Republicans will most likely do everything in their power to restrict women’s reproductive rights.

President George W. Bush is widely known for his strong anti-abortion views, and he has led the camp in this war against women both at home and abroad. On his first day as president, he reinstated the global gag rule, a policy that former President Bill Clinton lifted when he was in office. Under the gag rule, any international family planning organization that provides abortion services or counseling is denied U.S. funding. More recently, he has compounded the damage inflicted by the gag rule by deciding to withhold $34 million appropriated to the U.N. Population Fund. The fund promotes family planning and health care for women and children around the world, as well as working against the spread of HIV and the appalling practice of genital mutilation.

According to fund director Thoraya Ahmed, the money would have helped to prevent 2 million unwanted pregnancies, 800,000 induced abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant and child deaths. Bush withheld the money under the flimsy premise that the fund supports China’s one-child policy, an allegation that a State Department report found to be completely unsubstantiated.

Bush’s extremist views regarding women’s rights can also be seen in his appointments. Bush’s intention to nominate W. David Hagar to the Food and Drug Administration’s Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee shows how apathetic he is toward promoting women’s rights. This committee plays an important role in developing women’s health policies, and Hagar is a well-known opponent of abortion and family planning measures. In the past, he has refused to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women and has even written books and essays urging women to pray and turn to God when having health problems such as premenstrual syndrome or postpartum depression.

Bush has named Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who are staunchly anti-abortion, model U.S. Supreme Court justices. This view is no doubt shared by many in his party, which is a terrifying thought considering these are the people in charge of appointing new justices. The U.S. Supreme Court has now gone seven years without a vacancy, the longest continuous run in 178 years. Several justices are expected to retire soon, which will give Bush the opportunity to nominate people who will probably share his abortion views.

The threat of new, conservative justices was not as imminent when the Democrats had control of Congress, because they could vote against Bush’s nominees for the open positions. But now that Republicans have control, most likely a majority of Congress will support these nominees, and the appointments will swing the delicate balance of the court over to the anti-abortion side.

When the new legislative session convenes, I expect Congress will be all too eager to support Bush on his anti-abortion agenda. They could very well pass more laws even further restricting abortion and contraceptive access and will probably support Bush on his nominations to the federal courts.

Women have fought long and hard for the rights they enjoy today, but the battle for their rights has just begun. Now is the time to recognize the threat that Bush’s plan poses to their right to privacy, their right to choose and their right to start a family as they see fit. Without action, the protections guaranteed under Roe v. Wade could soon become obsolete.

Kristina Boraas is a University freshman. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]