Congress' 100 votes to restrict rights of women

October 11, 1998

The following editorial appeared in the Seattle Times on XTC Thursday:

President Clinton isn't the only one whose body has fallen under scrutiny from Congress lately. Count in 130 million American women, who've watched Congress take 100 separate votes to restrict their reproductive freedom. One hundred votes and counting.

Since the Republican revolution of November 1994, Congress has blasted ahead with strategies to curtail women's access to abortion, contraception and family planning. Poor women have been the most vulnerable, as well as women in other countries who rely on U.S. aid. Servicewomen overseas, female federal employees, female prisoners, Native American women and teen-age girls all have seen their reproductive rights and options curtailed.

And the attack continues.

This week, arguments about women's rights have bogged down several major federal spending bills, where pro-life sentiments glom like parasites onto unsuspecting hosts:

The agriculture bill stalled when pro-life groups tried to forbid the Food and Drug Administration from approving or even testing drugs like RU-486 that induce early abortions.

The treasury-postal bill had a provision that would require federal employee health plans to cover contraceptives.

Ignoring support in the House and Senate, Republican leaders deemed it "controversial" and removed it.

The foreign spending bill is mired, as usual, in debates about international family planning. This time, Congress is trying to forbid foreign organizations from talking about abortion policy with their own governments.

Middle- and upper-income women don't feel the pinch yet, because pro-life groups are still working on the poor and voiceless. The federal government banned abortion services for low-income Native American women; military women overseas; low-income women who live in Washington; women in federal prisons; and female federal employees.

Instead of supporting safe and comprehensive family planning, Congress has huffed about careless women and innocent zygotes, stopping only to hooray over federally funded Viagra.

Many Americans grapple with the ethics of abortion. The majority of Americans, male and female, still support a woman's right to make painful and private decisions about her body without interference from government. And yet the people we elect tend to vote otherwise.

Twenty-five years have passed since Roe v. Wade. Women's right to control their bodies has been chipped away in Congress, in the Supreme Court and in nearly every state legislature, especially during the past several years.

As the November election approaches, voters must ask if this is what they really wanted.

Pub Date: 10/11/98

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