I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at the latest attempt by the new Congress to turn back the clock. But I can’t help feeling discouraged.
“Pro-life” House members have introduced a bill that would ban abortions after 20-weeks of pregnancy. The bill would exempt rape and incest victims – but only if they previously reported the crime to police.
I am horrified by abortion, as most people are. And I am deeply saddened by late-term abortions. But I don’t think politicians have the right to tell women what to do with their bodies. It’s a deeply personal matter with complex medical, psychological and social implications.
Obviously, there are situations in which abortion is the only sane choice. In some cases, it means choosing whether the fetus or the mother should survive. Even this pro-life bill recognizes the need to exempt women whose lives are in danger.
But as Democratic Representative Jerry Nadler commented:
If the woman’s life is threatened, okay, she can have the abortion. But if her health is threatened, if the doctors conclude that she will become terribly injured in some way, it doesn’t matter. She can’t have the abortion because the morally arrogant people in this building decided that their outlooks are more important than her health and her safety.
And life-threatening medical complications might not be so clear-cut. Obstetricians can be forced to make a split-second life-and-death choice during a baby’s delivery. What politician in their right mind would claim the right to step in and make that decision?
Apparently, Representatives Trent Franks of Arizona and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, do. They are the sponsors of the new bill.
They are not alone. Several Republican legislatures across America have enacted similar legislation.
There are persuasive arguments in favor of a late-term abortion ban. But there is more to the issue than the politicians seem to realize.
As a reporter in Toronto back in the early Sixties, when abortion was illegal in Canada, I sometimes wrote about backroom abortions – grisly, heartbreaking affairs driven by desperation and despair, often with tragic consequences for the women and – more often – girls involved.
Legalized abortion might make you shudder, but you can be sure that, with anti-abortion laws, the alternative for many women will not be giving birth. Prevented from undergoing an abortion in an appropriate medical facility with qualified medical personnel, they will seek out some dangerous quack in a dingy back room.
The House is expected to vote on the latest anti-abortion legislation on January 22, the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It is scheduled to coincide with the arrival of at least 300,000 pro-life activists. There’s little doubt the bill will be approved. Similar legislation has sailed through the House in the past.
And with the Republican majority in the new Senate, the bill is certain to become law unless President Obama vetoes it as he promised to do to a similar bill back in 2013. Of course, the President’s veto could possibly be overturned as there are quite a few pro-life Democrats in Congress.
I expect more anti-abortion legislation is ahead. Ever since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalized abortion more than four decades ago, Republicans have resolutely fought to reverse the decision.
Funded by conservative billionaires and promoted by religious interests as well as politicians, America has been inundated by a vast pubic relations campaign over the years. Horror movies and hyperbolic diatribes have been featured in churches and town halls across the land and professionally developed sound bites have been echoed by right-wing media outlets.
The movement has gone so far as to advocate laws that would define a fertilized egg as a person, giving it all the rights and protections of American citizenship (cartoon above). This would not only outlaw all abortion but also prohibit some kinds of birth control.
So far, the political climate has restrained anti-abortion extremists to some extent.
Now, with a conservative (and predominantly Roman Catholic) Supreme Court, as well as a Republican Congress and a majority of Republican state legislatures, I fear that legalized abortion is in grave danger of being overturned completely in America.
The 2016 elections could be the key to America’s future in this regard. If the Republicans win the White House and keep the Senate and the House, the pro-life crusaders will be assured of victory at last.