By John Greeley
The Attorney General's assault on our first Amendment rights has only just begun. Unsuccessful in Des Moines, where intrusive subpoenas sought to obtain all sorts of information concerning groups who had gathered at Drake University to learn about staging anti-war protests, the Attorney General now is demanding to know what women were doing consulting with their doctors. The topic, of course, is abortion and involves at least six hospitals nationwide
When not busy buying heavy drapes to hide a marble statue of Justice because the sculptor saw fit to chisel her female form partially nude, the Attorney General seems to exhibit an uncommon interest in what goes on below the waist of American Womanhood.
In this instance, Ashcroft is contending that access to hundreds of women's medical records going back three years is necessary to learn if "partial birth" abortions, now deemed illegal pursuant to the law enacted in November of last year, were performed. Administrators at the subpoenaed institutions have resisted, citing violation of patient privacy rights.
Now there are many legal twists and turns in this contest, all of which make for interesting reading, but if we take the longer view, we can see this move as yet another attempt by this administration to play to its core conservative audience at the decided expense of the general public. The purpose, of course, is to bolster the faltering approval rating of President Bush's failing domestic policies. And, at the same time, this fishing expedition is just another example of the kind of intimidation the Ashcroft Justice Department attempted but failed at in Des Moines. The only difference is that perhaps the abortion issue is a bit more inflammatory than anti-war demonstrations in some quarters.
We must make no mistake about this administration's intent, however, and that is to get re-elected at any cost. Being a "war president" is evidently not enough to insure that fact, given the way his discretionary war is turning out. President Bush evidently believes that wielding the big stick of the Federal subpoena against legal war protesters and now women consulting their physicians will win him re-election because it plays to the sentiments of his fundamentalist, conservative Middle Americans. If enough red-state voters are satisfied that their brand of morality is being pitched by the White House, his electoral votes might just tally to a victory. But then, there is always the possibility of another Florida, just in case.
This is serious business. The physicians who performed the now banned practice going back three years have contended that their actions constituted a medical necessity. Mr. Ashcroft says "if the central issue in the case, an issue raised by those who brought the case, is medical necessity, we need to look at medical records to find out if indeed there was medical necessity."
At a time in our nation when thousands upon thousands of men, women and children cannot afford medical coverage or even secure gainful employment for that matter, what is the Attorney General doing attempting to poke around in the private matters of doctors and patients?
The New York Times quoted Democrat Representative Eliot L. Engel of the Bronx who said, "All Americans should have the right to visit their doctor and receive sound medical attention without the fear of Big Brother looking into those records."
It is becoming clear that this president will pay any price to insure re-election so long as the debt only involves the loss of citizens' constitutional rights or the sacrifice of our nation's soldiers. Of course, that sacred, impossibly wealthy, one percent of our population remains exempt from all of this, so it doesn't really matter, does it?
John Greeley is a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, a graduate of St. John's University Law School and a contributing editor at Intervention. You can email your comments to John at firstname.lastname@example.org