On the 29th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, the future of abortion rights in America is looking pretty grim. Indeed, in anticipation of the milestone, you ramped up your anti-choice rhetoric, calling on Americans to "reflect on the sanctity of human life." And, just in case the message wasn't quite clear enough, you have declared January 20th "National Sanctity of Human Life Day."
Thank you, Mr. President. We get the point. Despite the obviously conflicting advice coming from various staffers on this sensitive topic and your well-considered decision to avoid the issue altogether during your presidential campaign you've decided the time is ripe to establish yourself as the anti-abortion President. Wait, now, let me think… ah, yes. We remember you: You're the guy who spent his time in the Texas governor's mansion vowing to end legal abortion. You'll have to forgive us for not remembering your deep-seated passion for the topic; after all, it has been nearly a year since you've mentioned the plight of America's fetuses seems you were busy doing other things, like addressing gaping holes in our public education system and fighting a war on terrorism. But don't worry, we get it now: Conservative activists are cashing in their chips and you're back on the case.
I wonder if it's safe for us to assume this new clarity of focus means you're also serious about installing a Supreme Court Justice who'll favor overturning Roe v. Wade? Or about campaigning for pro-life Republicans? Because if it does, there are a few things you'll probably want to consider.
One: The majority of Americans favor abortion rights. That's not public relations; that's a cold, hard fact. Sure, lots of people have qualms about late-term abortions, but that's not the issue addressed in Roe. That ruling covers procedures performed in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy a right that women in most "developed" countries have the luxury of taking for granted.
The corollary: Inciting your enemies makes them more powerful. Every time the White House makes a move against abortion rights, donations to pro-choice groups surge; last year, when you reinstated a gag rule on international health organizations that receive U.S. funding, Planned Parenthood took in more than $600,000 in a single month.
Two: Women were having abortions before Roe, and they’ll continue to have them even if the ruling is reversed. Some estimates put the number of illegal abortions during the 1950s and 1960s at more than 1 million. Illegal abortions, of course, very often result in unspeakable pain, sterility or even death. They accounted for 17 percent of pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths in 1965 alone, and even today the World Health Organization estimates 78,000 women die each year from unsafe abortions. If safe and legal abortion is legislated away or ruled off the table, we're gong to see a return of the "back-alley butchers" made infamous during the court battles leading up to Roe. Women will die women whose lives might have been saved by sane, realistic abortion laws that treat women like grown-ups, rather than as overgrown wards of the state.
Three: If you do nothing else, listen to the women in your life: Barbara Bush supports abortion in the first trimester. And Laura Bush wasted no time after taking on the mantle of First Lady to announce she believes Roe v. Wade should not be overturned.