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COLUMN

You’ll Have No Choice

Stephanie W. Wang

It’s easy to take reproductive choice for granted these days. After all, it’s been thirty years since the landmark decision in the Roe v. Wade case where the Supreme Court stated that the right to privacy “is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” Unfortunately, as the dark days of sometimes fatal back-alley abortions have become an ignominious chapter of the distant past, the Bush administration’s policies and appointments increasingly threaten the reproductive choices of not just women in the United States, but women worldwide. As a recent New York Times editorial points out, “the lengthening string of anti-choice executive orders, regulations, legal briefs, legislative maneuvers and key appointments emanating from his administration suggests that undermining the reproductive freedom essential to women’s health, privacy and equality is a major preoccupation of his administration.”

Two years ago, to “celebrate” the twenty-eighth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Bush re-activated the global gag rule or “Mexico City Policy” which requires “nongovernmental organizations to agree as a condition of their receipt of Federal funds that such organizations would neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations,” according to a White House press release. This first act in office was certainly a clear indication of the continuing evisceration of reproductive choice that was to come.

Since then, he has appointed countless anti-choice judges in the court system and anti-choice officials to positions of authority on policies that greatly impact reproductive rights. In fact, one could surmise that, rather than a meritocracy, a person’s belief on this matter has become something of a litmus test for deciding these appointments.

Furthermore, the Bush administration has stopped funds to such “dubious” organizations as the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund, who have done “invaluable work,” according to Secretary of State Colin Powell, by providing the reproductive health services and family planning information so crucial for empowering women to make their own decisions. I suppose Bush is just incapable of understanding that the structural violence against women in much of the world, which threatens many of their basic rights daily, is not solved with one call of “abstinence and abstinence only.” In fact, women’s chances of education, good health, and a voice in society are in greater peril because of this ill-advised attempt to unilaterally enforce Puritan morals.

Of course, the underlying impetus for this series of bewildering actions seems to be an unwillingness to believe that women are capable of making tough decisions about their own lives without government interference. However, Bush and co. would have you believe it’s because they, the Enlightened Ones, have the monopoly on “knowing-when-life-begins” and “knowing-what-is-good-and-moral-and-what-is-bad-and-sinful.” Thus, they, as the sole possessors of this knowledge, must dictate what women around the world should do, individual rights and reproductive choice be damned. The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and the Clergy for Choice Network remind us that supporting reproductive choice is not just about supporting abortion as Bush would charge, but rather, it means working to ensure that women have “access to safe, reliable contraception, family planning education, comprehensive sexuality education, affordable and reliable childcare and health care, adoption services, and access to safe, legal, and affordable abortions.”

Sadly, Bush and his anti-choice band have long sought to obscure the central issue of choice in this debate by using the loaded rhetoric of labeling the two-sides as pro-life and pro-abortion, rather than anti-choice and pro-choice. If they want to talk life, rather than circling that interminable debate about when life begins, how about focusing on the 78,000 lives ended around the world a year, caused by complications of unsafe abortions, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute? The anti-choicers have also conveniently labeled the pro-choice stance as a radical leftist feminist one in an effort to polarize the populace along party lines. Well, if Bush really believes in the principles of the Republican party, shouldn’t he champion for getting “big government” out of private lives, or is that policy reserved for people who need “big government” out for the huge profits? After all, Republicans for Choice, and according to them, 71 percent of Republicans nationwide, “[believe] that in accordance with the basic fundamental principles of the Republican Party, we must protect individual rights, including a woman’s right to choose.”

On the thirtieth anniversary of the monumental triumph of rights over rhetoric that was Roe v. Wade, Bush and his overzealous cheerleaders continue their self-righteous crusade which could potentially overturn that decision if the court-packing succeeds. This means that those of us who believe in the constitutional rights which make America what it is must fight harder to preserve reproductive choice. When the administration replaces science with religious fundamentalism when disseminating information pertaining to reproductive decisions and women's health, we cannot remain silent. When Bush attempts to appoint one virulently anti-choice judge or official after another, he must be vigorously challenged. When the anti-choice rhetoric evokes again and again the image of a radical feminist recklessly killing babies thanks to Roe v. Wade, I remember that Roe v. Wade gives the woman, rather than the government, the right to make her painful personal decision. As one woman reflected, “if so terrible a decision comes for me, I honestly can't say what choice I will make. But I do know that no one else should have the right to make it for me.”