Eliminating the right to choose, real choices

No justices have retired for more than ten years, but this streak is likely to be broken over the next president’s term.

Four years ago, a disengaged public allowed Republican presidential candidate Gov. George W. Bush to hide his extremist agenda behind the rhetorical smokescreen of “compassionate conservatism,” lulling many voters into thinking that there was little difference between himself and his opponent.

Bush discarded the moderate campaign rhetoric within hours of taking office, beginning his first day in office with the infamous global gag rule that denies badly needed funding to organizations providing medical services in poor countries if any of their doctors even mentions abortion.

Now – according to a chilling new report by NARAL Pro-Choice America – Bush is poised to achieve the far right’s core goal of completly eliminating a woman’s right to choose.

The report, “The Price of Four More Years: Eliminating the Right to Choose and Eroding Real Choice,” documents how throughout his presidency Bush has pursued the anti-choice agenda relentlessly in many ways and how a second term would “close the deal” on this issue for the anti-choice right.

During his first term, he has infringed on privacy rights, limited

access to birth control, shifted resources to “abstinence only” programs instead of medically accurate sex education and filled both the courts and the federal bureaucracy with dedicated advocates of eliminating the right to choose.

Bush has packed the federal bench with conservative judicial

activists such as Deborah Cook, who believes that child abuse laws might be used to prosecute women seeking abortions, and Michael McConnell, who supports a constitutional amendment banning abortions. He has placed anti-choice activists in positions of power throughout the executive branch.

He has also allowed ideology to push science out of the regulatory and administrative process, corrupting federal efforts to educate and protect U.S. citizens in areas such as stem cell research to fight diseases such as cancer, diabetes and spinal injuries.

But all this is just prologue.

According to the report, we haven’t seen the worst from Bush. A “perfect storm” of likely Supreme Court vacancies and potential cases eading toward the Court could well lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Abortion rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade hang by a single Supreme Court vote – a vote conservatives are confident they can take away in a second Bush administration.

No justices have retired for more than 10 years, but this streak is likely to be broken over the next president.

Two of the three justices considered most likely to step down, Justice John Paul Stevens and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, have voted consistently to uphold Roe v. Wade. And court-watchers say that two more pro-choice justices – David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsberg – are considering leaving the bench as well.

Bush has already signaled his intention to appoint only anti-choice justices with his appointments to lower benches and with hisopen admiration for Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, who have written: “we believe that Roe was wrongly decided and that it can and should be overturned.”

At the same time a second Bush administration might be pushing an activist conservative ideologue toward the high bench, a series of court cases providing the opportunity to affirm or overturn Roe v. Wade is likely to be heading the same direction.

The Michigan Definition of Live Birth Act was written specifically

to give courts an opportunity to consider Roe v. Wade. The law, whose vague language could be interpreted as banning virtually all abortions, takes effect next March, with immediate court challenges certain to follow.

As people evaluate their decision this fall, it is important to look back at the scope and virulence of the Bush attack on US women and their rights to choice and privacy, which has taken place over the last four years.

We’ve witnessed the unthinkable: a frontal assault on the right to choose, a federal judiciary packed with anti-choice activists, an executive branch which openly attacks reproductive freedom here and around the world, and a White House that corrupts science to score ideological points.

If you don’t think voting makes a difference, think about what the Bush administration has done to a woman’s right to choose over the last four years. Then think about the price of four more years. Register. And vote.

Timothy D. Stanley is the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota. Please send comments to [email protected]