The court, Roe and the '92 election
Roe vs. Wade is dead, and Americans won't realize it until the conservative Supreme Court mounts a flashing scoreboard over the front door proclaiming victory.
In the 1973 Roe decision, the court ruled that state governments could not prevent or restrict access to abortion. But this court has devoted the last three terms to overturning precedents. In the celebrated Webster case, the court invited state governments to put their proposed anti-abortion legislation up to judicial scrutiny. When these cases reached the Supreme Court, the state regulations were upheld every time. This Supreme Court has now, in essence, trimmed that right to the point where state legislatures can and do make restrictions.
What pro-choice voters should fear is the quickly emerging "pro-life" majority on the court. Overturning Roe will have a devastating effect on women, especially those who cannot afford to travel to states where it will remain legal. It also could eventually lead to the criminalization of abortion with criminal penalties for doctors and patients.
Perhaps it is time for the National Organization for Women, National Abortion Rights Action League and Planned Parenthood plan for the future by working to ensure that a challenge to Roe is heard by the Supreme Court before the 1992 election, so abortion does not remain as distant and unfocused as it did during the 1988 campaign. If Roe were to be overturned this term, and the decision came down next spring, it might remain in the news throughout the presidential campaign. Bush could lose to a pro-choice Democrat, who might then have the opportunity to fill the three aging, liberal seats on the bench with equally liberal replacements.
The Bush administration is well aware of the danger of bad timing and has refrained from bringing any challenge to Roe this term. But the Souter and Thomas nominations send a clear signal that President Bush, if given the opportunity, will swing the court so far to the right that it may go full circle and outlaw abortion outright.
A familiar cry of pro-abortionists is "legal abortions put an end to back-alley abortions." But do they really?
A segment of the popular "60 Minutes" TV program, aired on April 21, was the story of a woman who went to what she believed to be a reputable clinic where she could get a legal and safe abortion. Today, she lives in a Baltimore nursing home. She is almost completely paralyzed ` her brain so damaged she may never speak again.
Halfway through the abortion procedure, she stopped breathing. The clinic's emergency equipment was broken, Thus, her brain went without oxygen for 12 minutes. The clinic lacked the correct medicine to reverse the effect of the anesthesia. The anesthesia was given without any monitoring, without an anesthesiologist or a nurse anesthetist present, without the normal safeguards that are part of standard, modern American medical care.
Another patient died at this abortion clinic. Another patient had to be rushed to a hospital because an artery was severed and a hysterectomy had to be performed. She was 19.
This sounds like back-alley abortions, but all this happened at an abortion clinic in Suitland. Pro-abortion leaders knew about the problems at the clinic but admitted they didn't want them publicized. The clinic is still in operation. The state cannot prosecute the owner because in Maryland there are no laws controlling how abortion clinics are run.
One cannot open a junkyard in Maryland without a license, but a license is not needed to open an abortion clinic.
Regardless of where you stand on the abortion issue, we can all agree we need some standards for clinics. Otherwise, we really haven't progressed from "back-alley abortions."
Goose held hostage
While I must thank Helen Delich Bentley for being the first Republican to express an opinion on the civil rights bill in a less than condescending manner (Forum, July 22), I must take issue with a couple of her comments.
While she states that "every fair-minded person supports the basic tenet of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964," she must omit the symbolic leader of her party, President George Bush, who voted against that important bill. In fact, Bush called the bill "dangerous." It is this type of heritage that makes today's Republican Party difficult to trust when it comes to protecting the rights of Americans who are not wealthy.
And while she talks of using "common sense and not [killing] the goose that lays the golden egg for all of us," most of us, whom the civil rights initiative would help, suspect that the goose has been held hostage since 1980.
In short, it is time for the Republican Party to tell us what we can do to protect people's rights and not always dwell on what we can't do.
Scuds and peace