Letters to the Editor
The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne, Indiana
To the Editor:
Your editorial "Rolling back Roe v. Wade" (21 April) distilled the common sense and, far more important, the fairness and decency for which the heartland has traditionally been known. Your editorial is a clear and blunt investment in passing these treasures of our American character onto the future.
Unhappily, the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Gonzales v. Carhart has declared open season on fairness and decency, and threatens eventually to overturn Roe v. Wade. Open season may lead to the extinction of common sense, fairness and decency, as America -- at least for women and girls of child-bearing age -- morphs into the nightmare reproductive theocracy Margaret Atwood envisioned as "The Republic of Gilead" in "The Handmaid's Tale."
In my mother's last year, this quiet and nearly apolitical woman marched down Washington DC's avenues with a hundred thousand sisters (and plenty of brothers) to demand every woman's right to a safe, legal abortion. Her memories of the grotesque perils and injustices America's young women endured before Roe v. Wade remained fresh, bitter and angry until she died.
What strange crimes were these before Roe v. Wade, and what strange crimes will they be again if Roe v. Wade is overturned? These are crimes only a woman or a girl can commit -- in conspiracy with those other notorious criminals, villains and fiends, her physicians. (No attack on Roe v. Wade has ever sought to criminalize the men and boys who father these pregnancies.)
This has always been about the ownership and enslavement of women at the whims of men in statehouse and courthouse majorities. All five of the majority justices are men. The Court's only woman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, broke tradition to read her angry dissent aloud.
Those who dream of ending abortion in America are not dreaming, but hallucinating, and -- like Attorney General Gonzales -- have pathetically poor memories. The desperation of an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy is an eternal part of women's experience. All Roe v. Wade changed was that abortions became medically clean and safe, and the patient's medical privacy was protected from the intrusive violations of divinely inspired prosecutors and police.
As America, to its shame, once did, the Republic of Gilead will have plenty of abortions -- performed in septic back rooms by pharmacists, midwives, nurses, and by desperate teenage girls in their bathrooms. No court decision, no federal or state law, however unfair, indecent, unjust, or divinely inspired, can prevent that.
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The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne, Indiana USA
Saturday 21 April 2007
Rolling back Roe v. Wade
In upholding the 2003 federal law banning what anti-abortion proponents have dubbed “partial birth abortion,” the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday knocked a chink in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that affirmed the right to abortion.
The court gave Congress permission to render its non-medical judgment and dictate to women as they make the most wrenching personal decisions of their lives. The law forces doctors to make medical recommendations based on something other than their best medical opinions – even if the woman’s health is at risk.
Even the acceptance of the term “partial birth abortion” as the standard description of the procedure is a victory for anti-abortion activists. The real medical description is intact dilation and extraction, and it’s relatively rare.
Nearly 90 percent of abortions are performed during the first trimester – or first 12 weeks – of pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute, which studies reproductive health issues, estimated that about 2,200 of the 1.3million abortions performed in the United States in 2000 – less than two-tenths of 1percent – were done using the dilation and extraction procedure, almost always later in pregnancy. The procedure is an alternative to one in which the fetus is dismembered inside the uterus. Some doctors believe it carries a lower risk of infection, bleeding and permanent injury in individual cases.
With abortion foes John Roberts and Samuel Alito Jr. joining the court, anti-abortion forces aim to make Wednesday’s decision the first domino on the way to overturning Roe v. Wade, which would allow states or Congress to outlaw abortion entirely – for any reason. This decision may begin attempts to make abortion illegal little by little – medical procedure by medical procedure.
Wednesday’s decision also points up the enormous power wielded by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s new swing vote after the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Kennedy was in the minority in 2000 when the court overturned Nebraska’s “partial birth” ban, but he joined Chief Justice Roberts, Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia on the prevailing side of this case.
In his majority opinion, Kennedy argued that banning the procedure was good for women because it would protect them from terminating their pregnancies by a method they might not fully understand in advance and that they might come to regret later.
By effectively declaring women incapable of making medical decisions for themselves in consultation with their doctors, he set the stage for tearing down the zone of personal privacy that the Roe v. Wade decision established.
Two generations of women have grown up in a world where abortion is both safe and legal, but Wednesday’s decision suggests that the next generation may not be so fortunate.