Albion Monitor /Commentary

The War Against a Woman's Right to Choose

by Randolph T. Holhut

Abortion a right that exists on paper more than in practice
The anti-abortion zealots had their annual gathering of the tribes in Washington, D.C., two weeks ago, demonstrating as they have every year since 1973 to pressure the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark court case that established a woman's right to an abortion.

Twenty-five years after Roe, the Supreme Court still upholds that right, but it's a right that exists on paper more than in practice. Instead of just using the courts and the legislatures, the anti-abortion zealots have graduated to bombing clinics, murdering doctors and clinic workers and harassing and intimidating any woman who needs an abortion.

The blockades, protests, harassment and death threats have intimidated many doctors into giving up performing abortions. There are many women in this country who now have to travel hundreds of miles to get an abortion from the few health care providers who are brave enough to continue.

And that's the hardships that women who can afford abortions must put up with. For women without means, the right to an abortion is an abstraction. In 33 states, there's no public assistance available to terminate a pregnancy. One in five women in America who want an abortion cannot obtain one.

The old joke about pro-lifers believing that life begins at conception and ends at birth is often true
There are too many people in this country that not only believe abortion should be again be a crime, but the use of contraception too. These are the people that want to put the genie that was the Sexual Revolution back in the bottle.

When the Pill hit the market in the early 1960s, it instantly changed the rules, and Roe v. Wade a decade later changed them ever further. Sex could be now enjoyed without fear of pregnancy. Women could choose when or if they wanted to bear children. No more getting trundled off to the unwed mothers home. No more clandestine trips to the back-alley abortionists. This is a good thing.

The anti-abortionists believe our nation would have fewer social problems, fewer teen pregnancies, less child abuse and more respect for human life. They forget that abortion has been around in one form or another long before Roe v. Wade and that women determined to end an unwanted pregnancy have done so, even at the risk of their lives.

Their professed concern about the sanctity of human life is flimsy at best. The old joke about pro-lifers believing that life begins at conception and ends at birth is often true. They want abortions to end, but make no provisions for the women who have children they cannot afford to raise. They don't want the government to pay for poor women's abortions, but say nothing about the continued government support for sterilization or forced birth control for the poor.

The right of a woman to control her own body and make decisions affecting her health without the interference of the government is a fundamental right. There's no way that women can fully and equally participate in the economic and social life of the nation without it.

That's why it's time to cut through the nonsense surrounding the arguments of the so-called pro-lifers and recognize it for what it is: a hypocritical attempt by a sex-drenched society that condemns sexual pleasure while at the same time profiting from it to force the state to control women and criminalize sex not deemed suitable.

That's why contraception research is at a near-standstill. That's why an abortion is nearly impossible to obtain if you're poor or a woman of color. That's why doctors have to carry out abortions in secret so they can avoid being killed by the most radical of the anti-abortionists -- "pro-life" killers like Michael Griffin, Paul Hill and John Salvi.

Nothing ever ends without a struggle. We may be heading into the final chapter that decides whether women will continue to have access to abortion or whether the jihad waged by the anti-abortionists will succeed in overturning the hard-fought gains in reproductive rights of the last three decades.

As someone who believes in a woman's unconditional and unrestricted right to choose, I believe it's a time to fight the hatred and intolerance of those who think they have a right to control what you do with your body. If the anti-abortion zealots prevail, we will all be the losers.

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Albion Monitor February 2, 1998 (

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