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News ::
17 Jun 2003

By Sue Davis
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the June 19, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Sue Davis

The Republican majority in the House of Representatives, along with many Democrats, passed a law on June 4 to ban so-called "partial-birth
abortions" and fine or jail doctors who perform them. The Senate passed a similar bill in March.

President Bill Clinton had vetoed such legislation twice. In 2000 the
Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 that a similar state law was
unconstitutional. But representatives defied the Supreme Court decision.
They further defiled women's rights by voting down an amendment that
would have permitted the procedure--if a doctor determined it was
necessary--to avert "serious adverse health consequences" to the
pregnant woman.

It didn't matter to them that the procedure, known medically as "intact dilation and extraction," accounts for only 0.1 percent of all abortions performed in this country.

It didn't matter to them that it's only performed as a desperate last-
ditch effort to save the mother's life, end a pregnancy of a severely
malformed fetus, or keep a frightened teen from bearing a child she
doesn't want. It didn't matter to them that this ban will affect the
most vulnerable, needy, poor, young women.

"This bill is really an abortion procedures ban," stressed National
Organi zation for Women President Kim Gandy noted. She added that the
bill is "purposely worded so vaguely that it could criminalize even some of the safest and most common abortion procedures after 12 weeks and well before fetal viability."

Anti-choice zealots, with President George W. Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft leading the pack, see this bill as a giant stepping-stone toward overturning Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.

They know that a group of pro-choice organizations plans to file suit to stop the legislation. But by the time the case gets to the Supreme
Court, they are counting on Bush having appointed an anti-choice justice to overturn safe, legal, accessible abortion. Their strategy was the focus of a lead article in the June 8 New York Times.

But what they're not anticipating in their cynical calculation is the
role of struggle.


In response to the growing attempts to override and overturn Roe vs.
Wade, the National Organization for Women issued a call on June 10 to
build for a mass mobilization on April 25, 2004, in defense of women's
right to choose.

A massive turnout of women and all who support their right to make
critical life decisions without the intervention of the state or the
church is just what's needed.

But as important as the forces such a march could mobilize, the struggle to defend choice will be impacted by the political orientation of such a demonstration.

Will pro-choice forces be led by the demand: "Anyone but Bush in 2004"?

Channeling the independent struggle for women's rights into the
Democratic Party is marching the movement into a dead end.

Many pro-choice activists fear that Bush's impending nominations to the Supreme Court will shift the highest court in the land to the right, further imperiling Roe vs. Wade.

But the Supreme Court is also vulnerable to a rising tide of angry
protest. The 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling was not a gift from on high. At
that time, six of the nine justices were Republican appointees--four of them put in by conservative Republican Richard Nixon. Yet five of these Republican appointees voted to legalize abortion. And one of the two judges who voted against the decision was a Kennedy appointee.

Despite the overall political character of the Supreme Court at the
time, the ruling class felt the enormous pressure from the grass-roots
movement in the streets and made a concession to it.

Today, the belief that a Democrat in the White House will automatically protect Roe vs. Wade and women's right to choose is disempowering to the movement that can defend women's rights.

Even though President Bill Clinton twice vetoed similar bans on so-
called "partial-birth abortions" like the bill that just passed
Congress, it was during his administration that women's health clinics
faced a siege of terror.

And his administration also dismantled the welfare system---a
devastating blow to the health and welfare of working class and poor
women. Could a Republican have carried out such a brutal measure without mass protests?

Clinton could only get away with slashing this safety net for the most
vulnerable women during a period of economic upturn because so many in
the mass movement were working to get the Democrats re-elected instead
of organizing an independent movement to confront whichever party of big business was running the Oval Office.

And Republicans weren't alone in getting this bill banning a form of
abortion through Congress. Democrats voted alongside them.

Only a movement that isn't beholden to either party of big business can secure the rights needed by all sectors of the working class and

Kate Michelman, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, noted the irony
of congressional legislation that curtails women's rights domestically
while the U.S. claims to be waging wars for "democracy" abroad. This war drive is being used to try to frighten the population into accepting a reactionary agenda that undermines progress that has been made on all social issues.

The demand for women's rights will be strengthened by linking it to the broad, multi-faceted movement against "endless" Pentagon war that both parties in Congress voted to endorse and to fund.

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not
allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY,
NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) Subscribe wwnews-
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