Women's groups are incensed – incensed! Patriarchal Supreme Court Justices are after our rights! If we don't have the right to puncture unborn children's skulls moments from birth, women cannot live freely.
But what does the Supreme Court's shifting gears to uphold a national ban on the partial birth abortion procedure really bode for women? Is it really a slippery slope back to the bad old days? Most women leaders purporting to represent women have an opinion, believe you me.
A few hours after learning of the decision, Senator Diane Feinstein took to the Senate Floor to rally America's abortion activists: "If I were a young woman today, I would be incredibly concerned that this era is drawing to a close. The threat to reproductive freedom is no longer theoretical.. All those who care about protecting a woman's right to privacy should take notice and make their voices heard."
In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg, attacked Justice Kennedy's expressed doubts that the procedure placed a difficult moral burden upon women. She said of his comments, "this way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women's place in the family and under the Constitution – ideas that have long since been discredited."
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards called Wednesday "a dark day for women's health and safety."
National Organization of Women President Kim Gandy rallied her troops: "We must elect a Congress that will repeal this ban and a president who will sign the repeal. November 2008 can't come soon enough."
Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton vehemently denounced the Supreme Court's decision and its conservative majority, saying: "This decision marks a dramatic departure from four decades of Supreme Court rulings that upheld a woman's right to choose and recognized the importance of women's health...It is precisely this erosion of our constitutional rights that I warned against when I opposed the nominations of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito."
And yet Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of the ban – so are all Americans out to get women? Polls showing women's support of the ban would suggest that the majority of women are endangering their own rights.
Here's the problem: if women's rights are undermined by outlawing a procedure that allows us to choose to mutilate and suction out the brains of a baby, mid-birth, then women's rights deserve to be trashed. I would suggest that there is more to women's rights than this. We need go no further than women's rights trailblazer Elizabeth Cady Stanton to dismiss the idea that women's rights and abortion rights are synonymous. "When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit," she wrote in a letter to her friend Julia Ward Howe.
And Susan B. Anthony's newspaper The Revolution reinforces Justice Kennedy's assertion about the burden an abortion could have. Her editorial warned, "No matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death..."
Further, if denying the choice of this particular procedure is a threat to every choice to abort as our current women leaders claim, then their position cannot be maintained in legislatures. These women are indeed on the wrong side of history – or herstory. Not because of some "ancient" notions of the subjugation of women returning inexplicably to haunt modern women. As if! No, it is because women have intelligence and consciences and are capable of making informed, moral decisions to pass laws that provide the protections of unborn children they support. All the while, they can safeguard their own legitimate human rights.
The old guard's only hope is in the dictatorship of the Supreme Court. That is because Americans, and women in particular, do not agree that the "right" to abortion is absolute. As a group, they are grappling with which restrictions they support, not whether they support any. Since the so-called right to abort is not absolute, then perhaps it is time the democratic process and the majority of American women who support some restrictions on the procedure be allowed to pass laws in which they believe.
It is past time that women as a "movement" use power for noble and life-giving purposes – rather than for mounting legal arguments to safeguard such a hideous procedure. There is enough suffering and violence in the world.
Honestly, it is past time to throw out this old guard of so-called "women's leaders," and it is time to elect women to public office who truly represent women on this issue.
With Ms. Gandy, I could not agree more on one point. November 2008 cannot come soon enough.
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