On March 13, Congress moved one step closer toward ending its eighth year struggle over legislation to ban partial birth abortion when the senate voted 62 -33 in favor of the law.
Now pro-choice proponents await the House’s decision due out after Easter break-which last year approved the ban by a nearly two-to-one margin. Many worry this will thwart the rights Roe v. Wade secured for women 30 years ago and an attempt by the right wing to make abortion illegal.
Director of the women’s leadership institute, Margo Okazawa-Rey, who organized a celebration last month for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, fears the worst.
Okazawa-Rey is a firm believer that the possible passing of the bill H.R. 760 represents another effort by the Bush administration to undermine women’s empowerment and to scale back on women’s rights.
“Ever since Roe v. Wade was enacted the anti-choice folks have been trying to undercut Roe V. Wade,” said Okazawa-Rey. “Since Bush has come into office there has been a very concerted effort to overturn Roe v. Wade. This one step closer to it.”
In his State of the Union address in January 22, Bush affirmed his stance on the issue when he stated, “My hope is that the United States Congress will pass a bill this year banning partial-birth abortion, which I will sign. Partial-birth abortion is an abhorrent procedure that offends human dignity.”
According to the National Right to Life web site, a group in favor of the ban, describe a partial-birth abortion as any procedure in which the baby is delivered “past the navel . . . outside the body of the mother” before being killed.
However, the procedure in the second and third trimesters and known to doctors “dilation and extraction” is believed by at least some medical experts to be occasionally necessary to minimize risk to patients.
Laws to ban this late-term abortion procedure have been passed in at least 30 states. This ban, if passed, would make it illegal all over the United States to perform a specific abortion procedure conducted in the last six months of pregnancy.
Sponsored by Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Oh.), the bill calls for what they believe is an end to “a barbaric and legally or morally indefensible practice.”
Cynthia Turner, Health director both at Mills and UC Berkeley stresses that not every pregnancy is a safe one and echoes Okazawa-Rey’s concerns over the possible adoption of the bill.
” My concern about the partial abortion ban is just the beginning of eroding Roe v. Wade,” said Turner, ” As soon as you open the door to have legislative decide what’s best for women’s bodies its just a scary deal. I feel very strongly that abortion is still a women’s right and nothing should tamper with that.”
The bill was first introduced in 1995 and passed both the House and Senate, but was vetoed twice by President Clinton.
According to National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) the bill poses many dangers. If passed, it will ban multiple abortion procedures and make pregnant women with health risks vulnerable to hysterectomies instead of the partial birth abortion method. Moreover the bill will ignore the life of the mother.
Kate Michelman, president of NARAL, said to the Washington Post that the introduction of the bill is “inflammatory.” Realizing that she has little power to stop passage of this bill she said, “We are climbing uphill.”
Furthermore the opponents of the ban argued that the bill not only violate Roe v. Wade, but it also violates the Stenberg v.Carhart 2000 decision in the state of Nebraska where five justices held that Roe v. Wade covers even partial-birth abortions.
As the decision is being weighed by the House, both Okazawa-Rey and Turner stress the importance of Mills women staying informed about what they say could be the beginning of dismantling of Roe v. Wade.
“The Bush administration has been very explicit about overturning Roe V. wade. It’s not a hidden agenda,” said Okazawa-Rey. ” It is a very explicit part of his political agenda, as is overturning affirmative action, and the global war on people of color. It is all part of the same package he is trying to deliver to people in the US and all around the world. And I think we should say no.”
Turner added, ” Just like people came out against the war we need to come out against this.”