Right to privacy is the true target of U.S. jihadists

July 25, 2005|By Cynthia Tucker

ATLANTA - Let's not waste time fretting over Judge John G. Roberts Jr.'s stance on abortion. It's most likely that his views on Roe vs. Wade are close to those of President Bush. After all, the president would hardly have nominated Judge Roberts to the Supreme Court if his record showed a strong liberal streak.

Rather than focus narrowly on abortion, Americans who believe in individual rights - that's nearly all of us - should concentrate on Judge Roberts' views on something even more important: the right to privacy.

If you examine carefully the rantings of those on the extremist edge of the religious right, you'll see that they make an underlying argument even more troubling than their absolutist premise that abortion is murder: They argue that there is no constitutional right to privacy.

If that antediluvian view holds sway, American women will find themselves living under something akin to Sharia, Quranic law that restricts women's rights. And men, too, will find their private lives severely curtailed by government interference. If Americans have no right to privacy, the government can roam freely about your bedroom, telling you how and when to have sex and whether you can use a contraceptive.

Forty years ago, Connecticut prohibited the use of contraceptives, even by married couples. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Connecticut ban in 1965, ruling that it violated a right to privacy inherent in the Constitution.

If you think that's a bit of ancient history, think again. The United States has its own version of the Taliban.

Though mostly nonviolent - there are exceptions, certainly, such as Eric Robert Rudolph - they are no different from Islamic extremists who want to force others to live under their harsh and intrusive 10th-century rules.

Consider the controversy over the morning-after contraceptive called Plan B. Overruling the advice of two advisory committees, which found that Plan B is safe and effective in preventing pregnancy, the Food and Drug Administration has refused to approve over-the-counter sales. It is most effective when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, which may not be enough time to get a prescription. But because of the outcry of a small group of extremists, over-the-counter sales of Plan B are stalled.

Among those extremists is James W. Sedlak, founder and former president of a group called Stop Planned Parenthood, who claims that the Plan B contraceptive "is designed to kill human beings." It does no such thing. A concentrated dose of the hormone progestin found in daily birth control pills, Plan B works by preventing ovulation, fertilization of the egg or implantation of an egg in the womb. There is no "human being," not even a fetus.

If Mr. Sedlak sounds like a member of the right-wing fringe, he is. Nevertheless, his far-out views have held sway over a government body that ought to be guided by science.

Indeed, the views of such extremists are gaining currency. Around the country, there have been increasing reports of pharmacists who refuse to sell legally prescribed contraceptives to women.

And then there's Southern Utah University professor Bryce Christensen, who often writes for an ultraconservative outfit called the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society. He has blasted women who work outside the home and denounced "intentional childlessness" as one of the causes of the decline of traditional marriage.

Mr. Sedlak, Mr. Christensen and their fellow Christian jihadists want to patrol your bedroom to make sure you're wearing your flannel nightie. It's important to know whether Judge Roberts would let them in.

Cynthia Tucker is editorial page editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her column appears Mondays in The Sun.

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