Bush Chips Away at Abortion Rights

Newly “”elected”” President George W. Bush authored one of his first executive orders Monday, which bans the use of U.S. federal funds for international family planning groups that offer abortions or abortion counseling. As Democrats shed tears and Republicans leap for joy, middle-of-the-road voters should take a deep breath and hold on tight.

The speed with which Bush has shed his supposedly moderate stance on abortion rights should disconcert his independent supporters, most of whom support a woman’s right to choose and only followed Bush based on his tax plans.

In fact, these independents seem to be getting a nice surprise from their candidate: Thus far, it seems he is more determined to ban abortion rights than to give the tax cut upon which he slipped into office.

Bush’s defense of the controversial executive order plays on a traditional Republican belief: that charitable organizations should be responsible for securing and supporting individuals’ rights rather than the federal government, and that private donations can cover the costs of programs such as family planning clinics. This theory, however, does not logically apply to the issue of abortion rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in 1973’s Roe v. Wade and again in 1992’s Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, has acknowledged that the federal government is obliged to allow abortion clinics to operate and that it also must protect the women and clinics involved in such services. Bush’s new ban is an underhanded, sneaky way of chipping away at Roe’s demand for federal protection of the right to choose.

It may be argued that these funds deserved to be revoked simply because they were being sent overseas, and technically Roe’s only requires federal protection of abortion rights in the United States. However, as one of only a handful of nations that supports a woman’s right to choose and women’s rights in general, it is essential that America take a clear, firm stance on these issues in order to voice concern for oppressed women throughout the world.

In the last decade, violations of women’s rights have increasingly become more visible: The Taliban regime in Afghanistan denies female citizens essentials such as medical care, education, work and even the ability to move about freely. Meanwhile, the Middle East and parts of Africa have come under scrutiny for unjust practices such as sex slave industries and female genital mutilation.

As the current world power, America’s stance on women’s rights is highly symbolic. Without pressure or leadership from a global authority such as the United States, these nations will have no reason to reform their oppressive practices.

If only for symbolism, Bush needed to keep these now-banned funding programs in effect, but instead, he has single-handedly removed the United States from the international fight for women’s rights through a single executive order. As America recedes from the front of this war, there is little hope that these nations, already lacking respect for women’s humanity, will make any progress toward equality for women.

During his reign at the White House, Bill Clinton successfully reimplemented these funding programs after Ronald Reagan had canceled them. Clinton is also credited with twice vetoing Congressional bills aiming to ban late-term abortions, also called “”partial-birth abortions”” by opponents. Yet, Clinton disappointed abortion rights supporters in his final days as president when he failed to place a moratorium on alterations to these controversial funds, and all federal funds for abortion services and education. Clinton also left office with only 14 percent of American counties able to provide abortion services.

Although it is questionable whether Clinton could have had any truly permanent or lasting effect on this issue during his scramble to finish business at the White House, any type of symbolic outreach, speech or appearance perhaps could have delayed Bush’s attack by placing Clinton on stage as the hero in the fight for choice. It truly may have helped cement his legacy as a fighter for women’s rights, and it perhaps would have been a respected, popular and brave way to say good-bye to his loyal abortion rights supporters. Not long ago, a woman may have been able to consider herself lucky to have been born in the United States, for it is a comparatively progressive nation concerning women’s rights. Unfortunately, the Monday maneuver, which happened to occur on the 28th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, seems to be a grave forecast for what the Bush Administration has in store for American women.

Within the executive order, Bush states, “”It is my conviction that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortion either here or abroad.””

Unfortunately, it is the conviction of many women, including this one, that economic and financial limitations should never render one’s reproductive rights nonexistent.

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