Revolution #68, November 5, 2006
Upcoming Supreme Court Cases and South Dakota Vote:
Anti-Abortion Laws… And the Fascist Theocratic Offensive Against Women
On November 8 the Supreme Court will hear two related cases on a reactionary law passed by Congress in 2003. If upheld, this law would ban the safest and most commonly performed procedures for second-trimester abortions and codify into law anti-science lies.
Just one day earlier on Nov. 7, voters in South Dakota will vote on whether to keep or toss out a law banning all abortions in that state except where the woman’s very life is at stake. The most draconian ban in the country, it makes no exception for rape, incest, or the health of the woman. Anti-abortion forces designed it to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, and if the South Dakota law is not rejected by voters, it will likely end up at the Supreme Court.
The anti-abortion forces see South Dakota as a testing ground and have pulled out all the stops. The antis, under the name “Yes for Life,” have money pouring into the state for expensive TV ads. They have mobilized fundamentalist churches to hand out anti-abortion signs, and pro-choice clergy are finding themselves under attack. Pro-choice forces have mobilized people from around the state and elsewhere to go door-to-door and urge people to vote down the law.
The anti-abortionists have especially gone on the offensive around so-called “partial-birth” abortion and even named the federal ban that is the focus of the Supreme Court cases the “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.” This name is totally fabricated. There is no such thing as a “partial-birth” abortion in medical textbooks, and abortion has nothing to do with birth. The term is used to conjure up images of cute infants just inches away from baby blankets in order to spread confusion and put women and pro-choice forces on the defensive about abortion in general and mid- and late-term abortions in particular.
Over 90 percent of abortions are done in the first three months of pregnancy when the fetus is a tiny clump of cells anywhere from the size of the period at the end of this sentence to about an inch in length. Abortions done at this time are easiest, safest, and less expensive.
Less than 10 percent of abortions are done in the second trimester - approximately the 13th- 24th weeks of pregnancy, when the fetus develops a lot but is still incapable of living outside the woman’s body, even with medical assistance. Thousands of women need second-trimester abortions each year because of state restrictions, such as waiting periods and parental notification laws, along with difficulties in finding an abortion provider (87 percent of all U.S. counties have NO provider) and raising the money to get one (federal Medicaid does NOT cover abortion). Some women don’t realize they’re pregnant until they are farther along in pregnancy. And some women who want a child discover that the fetus has severe abnormalities from tests given only after 15 weeks or themselves develop medical conditions that put their health at risk.
Only a tiny percentage of abortions are done in the third trimester, overwhelmingly because of severe fetal abnormalities or serious health problems for the woman.
The government ban supposedly targets a particular abortion procedure that is used in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy— intact dilation and extraction, also called D&X. This is a variation of the dilation and extraction method (D&E) – a method used after the12th week of pregnancy. The reality is that this ban would apply to all D&E procedures, which are used for 90 percent of mid-term abortions, and would have a chilling effect on doctors being able to decide the best medical procedures to use for fear of criminal prosecution.
In the upcoming cases, Gonzales v. Carhart (a Nebraska doctor and abortion provider) and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood, the government hopes to reverse a previous Supreme Court ruling just six years ago that said a near-identical abortion ban in Nebraska was unconstitutional. The only difference now is the makeup of the Court and the strengthened influence of the Christian fascist theocrats.
The federal ban, along with the South Dakota law, are part of a major offensive of the whole fascist theocratic agenda against women that have huge implications for society overall.
The grim Handmaid’s Tale society ruled by theocratic patriarchs where fertile women are forced to become breeders, depicted in Margaret Atwood’s 1986 novel, is becoming less like fiction and more like reality. And it is crucial to confront the moral as well as political issues at stake here and go on the offensive.
As the article “The Morality of the Right to Abortion… And the Immorality of Those Who Oppose It” (see excerpt) said, referring to Roe v. Wade: “Overturning the ban on abortion—a ban which consigned thousands of women a year to death or horrible mutilation, and millions more to humiliation and oppression—was a profoundly moral thing to do!” And today it remains a moral imperative to defeat the attempts outlaw abortion.
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