The possibility that President Bush may soon be able to nominate several members to the U-S Supreme Court has re-ignited a bitter, ideological struggle in the United States: the legality of abortion. VOA's Andrew Baroch has details.
In the coming months or years, as many as three Supreme Court justices may retire due to age or illness. President Bush has indicated he may nominate anti-abortion jurists, who may then form a new majority on the high court and overturn its 1973 ruling legalizing abortion. But the President's high court nominees require Senate approval. Abortion rights leader Elizabeth Cavendish is already trying to persuade Senators to her point of view.
We say, 'Have compassion for those women who would have an illegal abortion. You don't want lower-income women, battered women, to be forced to carry unintended pregnancies to term or to self-abort. Think about the value of American freedom.'
Ms. Cavendish is a spokeswoman for the National Abortion Rights Action League, Pro Choice America, an organization that plans a major public relations campaign against anti-abortion court nominees. On the other side of the issue is Helen Alvare, a constitutional scholar at the Catholic University of America. She was formerly a spokeswoman for the U-S Conference of Catholic Bishops, an influential anti-abortion group.
An argument that you should take a life, a very innocent, very defenseless, very small, very unseen life in order to make someone else's human rights better is just doomed to failure and it's a disgrace to feminism.
According to Ms. Alvare, the abortion issue has been around for a long time.
[From] about the 1850's to the 1960's, almost all states forbade all abortions at the same time that the [medical] science became clear. In other words, it was a reaction to a medical and scientific discovery of something remarkable and new happening at the very beginning of the child's life inside the mother's body.
But Elizabeth Cavendish doesn't share that historical perspective. She says during that century, many women had self-induced abortions or went to abortion providers who were illegal and of varying caliber of medical competence. It was this fact, she says, that led state legislatures in the 1950's and 60's to begin repealing laws against abortion.
Major legal reform organizations recognized that anti-abortion laws needed reforming and a grass-roots movement was built as women were seeking freedom over their reproductive lives. There was a question of whether it would be safe, legal and dignified -- or whether it would remain illegal, horribly dangerous, and even deadly.
But Helen Alvare disagrees with this account because she says it omits the impact of the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960's and 70's.
You can't fail to tie the call for permissive abortion laws to more sexual freedom for women and for men. Because babies are so closely tied to sex, they (people who wanted sexual freedom) really couldn't have that without the ultimate backup of abortion.
In 1973, the U-S Supreme Court ruled that women have a right to privacy, which includes the right to an abortion. And Elizabeth Cavendish, with the National Abortion Rights Action League, says women have come to depend on this right.
Women feel free to define their families for themselves, their careers for themselves. But that is all very precarious. There will, indeed, be a big fight.
One thing the two sides agree on, says Helen Alvare: the argument over abortion is not going to go away as a national issue.