Founded by Drew Pearson 1932
The new abortion battleground
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – The abortion battles continue to change battlegrounds. After Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure, mainly Republicans fought and lost the battle in Congress. Then, they fought and lost in the courts. But they were gaining in another venue: ref state legislatures. And just as an anti-abortion victory seemed at hand, the Democrats took the contest to a new field: science.
The Obama administration confirmed the scientific approach this week when it reversed itself, saying it would no longer fight a federal court ruling ordering that the emergency contraceptive, the morning after pill, known as Plan B should be sold over the counter to girls and women of any age. President Obama last year endorsed a policy requiring parental notification for girls under the age of 17, which sparked a backlash in the women’s reproductive rights movement, and also in the scientific community.
It was thought at the time that Obama was bowing to political pressures and trying to avoid a cultural battle as he was seeking reelection to a second term. He was also no doubt looking at his own daughters, then 11 and 14, and finding it hard to imagine them having unprotected sex and needing access to emergency contraception. If that happened, he would want to know about it.
It is one thing to react as a parent, and quite another to respond as a president who respects science. Plan B in its one-pill, one-step version has been proven safe, but its effectiveness depends on it being taken within 24 hours. Creating barriers for 15 and 16 year-olds doesn’t make sense, and for girls even younger.
Myths abound, the latest voiced by a Republican on the House Judiciary Committee who said that the number of pregnancies resulting from incidents of rape is low, an assertion made without any apparent evidence. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., later amended his remark to say that pregnancies aborted after 20 weeks are rarely the result of rape. Now, he is sponsoring a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks even in cases of rape and incest. But the bill has no chance of passing the Democratically-controlled Senate.
Democrats are reviving their slogan, “war against women,” to take into account various anti-abortion measures around the country. Clinics that perform abortions are few and far between in the middle part of the country where red state governors and legislatures hold sway, and on the East Coast, Virginia led the way by requiring ultrasounds for women who seek an abortion. The test would confirm the gestational age of the fetus to make sure the pregnancy is in its earliest stages, and it would also make the woman confront the choice she is making in a very direct way. Other states with Republican governors and legislatures, notably Ohio and Wisconsin, are following Virginia’s lead.
Planned Parenthood remains under pressure from politicians who equate the venerable agency’s health services with abortion services. Women continue to back Planned Parenthood, and the power of that support became evident recently when the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation was forced to cancel some of its Race for the Cure events next year. The reason is diminished support in the wake of the group’s effort to pull its funding from Planned Parenthood last year. The decision was reversed but the damage was done.
There are lessons here about what American women will and won’t tolerate when it comes to their bodies. The cultural and religious right has been working for decades at every level to restrict abortion rights.
That’s why the morning after pill is such a big win for women, for Obama, and ultimately for science. Plan B works; it is safe, and girls who need it the most can now get it. Believing your daughters are too young for sex much less pregnancy is every parent’s Plan A, while Plan B offers peace of mind in a world where not everything goes according to plan.
© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND