New abortion ruling endangers women

By Eric Naing

The Christian right put all its chips on President Bush, and now it is time to cash them in. Last week, the Supreme Court upheld a federal law that bans dilation and extraction abortions. Seen as a first step in the path to banning all abortion, this ruling represents the disturbing influence the Christian right still has over the federal law of the United States.

The dilation and extraction procedure, often referred to by the decidedly non-medical term “partial birth abortion,” is when an intact fetus is delivered into the vaginal canal and then removed. The procedure is used so that women can avoid going through a delivery that may seriously impair their health. Though making up less than 0.2 percent of all abortions performed in the United States, social conservatives have relentlessly tried to ban it with the ultimate goal of banning all abortion.

This decision by the SCOTUS has frightening ramifications for the rights and safety of women now and in the future. In the short-term, the law banning dilation and extraction abortion has denied women a procedure that could potentially save their lives.

In the long-term, this decision by the Supreme Court reverses three decades of precedent which deem a woman’s health to be just as important as her life. As Justice Ginsburg wrote in her dissent, “for the first time since (Roe v. Wade), the Court blesses a prohibition with no exception safeguarding a woman’s health.” Equally frightening is the fact that the legislation upheld by the Supreme Court defines partial birth abortion in such vague terms that other more common abortion procedures could conceivably be banned under it.

When you ignore the moralistic babble about protecting the sanctity of life it becomes clear that this abortion fight reeks of politics. Instead of using the medically sanctioned term “dilation and extraction,” the pro-life crowd uses the horrific sounding phrase “partial birth abortion.” Instead of taking a principled stand against Roe v. Wade, pro-lifers chip away at women’s rights in the shadows. In the end, we need to realize that this issue is about the rights and health of women, not about politics.

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    The catalyst for this situation was centrist Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement from the Supreme Court and the appointments of conservative Justices Roberts and Alito. This rightward shift of the SCOTUS is the result of decades of work on behalf of the Christian right and will profoundly affect us for decades to come.

    But it is not just the Supreme Court that has been targeted, the lower courts and the Justice Department have both been populated with judges and lawyers that toe the line of the Christian right. It should not matter what religion a federal prosecutor is, but the Bush administration has shown a willingness to put ideology above the law.

    The recent scandal over the eight fired federal prosecutors has shown that this administration has no problem politicizing the Justice Department and has highlighted the extent to which the Christian right has infiltrated the judicial system; 150 graduates of televangelist Pat Robertson’s 4th tier law school at Regent University have been hired by the federal government.

    Monica Goodling, a Regent alumna now embroiled in the prosecutor scandal, was even picked by President Bush to monitor the job performances of the 93 U.S. Attorneys working for the Justice Department despite having no prosecutorial experience.

    The collision of religion and law not only corrupts government, but also cheapens religion. The abortion debate has been hijacked by religious interests. At its core, the issue about abortion is the health and rights of women, and not moralism.

    As has been demonstrated by their positions on not only abortion, but also the stem cell debate, same-sex marriage, evolution, the Terri Schiavo tragedy and sex education, this administration and the Christian right have no problem ignoring science, hard facts and simple logic in favor of ideological appeals.