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gender & sexuality

Unborn victims: Abortion foes win passage of fetal rights law

The battle for hearts and minds on this ferociously divisive issue needs to place more emphasis on strategies that will reduce the need for abortions, such as making the Plan B contraceptive available to women without requiring a prescription.
March 27, 2004

Those who are keeping score in the abortion war recognize the significance of the Senate's passage Thursday of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.

The lopsided 61-38 vote makes it a separate crime to harm a fetus during commission of a violent federal crime. But the bill, which President Bush has promised to sign, was never about protecting women or punishing criminals. Its purpose, from the moment of its conception, was to establish legal rights for a fetus - from the moment of its conception.

Here is the federal government's new legal definition of when personhood begins: An "unborn child" is a child in utero, which "means a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb." Although the act specifically exempts prosecution of legally performed abortions, its supporters unapologetically acknowledge that the law is a serious setback for abortion rights advo- cates.

Coupled with last year's passage of the so-called "partial-birth" abortion ban, the Unborn Victims act adds significant momentum to the anti-abortion movement. It also validates the emerging strategy of attacking abortion rights at vulnerable edges that are unlikely to offend mainstream Americans.

The strategy is working because abortion opponents have done their homework. Surveys confirm that almost two-thirds of U.S. adults support a ban on the late-term abortion procedure known as dilation and extraction, or "partial-birth" abortion. Similarly, when asked if a fetus should have rights, a Newsweek poll last June reported that 46 percent of respondents believed those rights should begin at conception, with 12 percent saying when the embryo is implanted in the womb.

In another 2003 survey, 79 percent of respondents said they believed that if an attack on a woman led to the death of her unborn child, prosecutors should be able to charge the attacker with murder for killing the fetus.

American opinions about abortion are evolving, and in most cases the shift is toward greater restriction on the circumstances under which abortion should be allowed. That suggests that those who believe abortion should remain a private medical decision between a woman and her doctor - a position we support - need to face reality.

Absolute defense of unrestricted abortion rights exposes even those abortion rights Americans will support to continued erosion and potential elimination. The battle for hearts and minds on this ferociously divisive issue needs to place more emphasis on strategies that will reduce the need for abortions, such as making the Plan B contraceptive available to women without requiring a prescription.

Reproductive choice for all women - including rape and incest victims, minors, and women for whom pregnancy poses serious physical, psychological or economic hardships - hasn't been at greater risk since the Supreme Court's landmark Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973. Abortion supporters need to become as smart and effective as their opponents in educating and motivating elected officials and the public. Otherwise, the choice women now enjoy as a legal right will be legislated out of existence.
already posted, with discussion 27.Mar.2004 16:34


Well 27.Mar.2004 18:59


We could waste a lot of time and energy bewailing the nasty politicians.

We could accept that it is here, and start figuring out how to get rid of it.
Also, start figuring out how it will be used for further attacks on women.
Besides the obvious.

We could start figuring out how to use it to protect women.

Good start, Dio 27.Mar.2004 22:40


suggestions, please?

OK 28.Mar.2004 03:51


I'm a philosopher, not a lawyer. Nor have I ever pretended to be a woman, except a couple of Halloween parties. You need someone else to established detailed parameters.

However, it does not take a philosopher or a lawyer to figure out that this legislation is so dishonest, there must be many ways to use it.

It is domestic terrorism designed to forestall action, by making people hesitate, rather than to punish wrong-doing.

It uses a phoney reverence for life to control women. Instead of trying to push back the 800lb gorilla, learn akido. Pretend the reverence is real and use it to protect women.

They need corrupt judges and perjured testimony to make it work -- not that there has ever been a shortage of either. And they will start with poor, coloured, unpopular victims to establish cheap precidents before going after photogenic white women.

So, first, cold-bloodedly pick cases. Find jurisdictions where judges are likely to be sympathetic. Find women who will elicit sympathy from the courts and the public. Charge pimps, cops, corporations, similar scum. Go after those states who won't grant welfare to babies born into welfare. Go after agencies which refuse food or medication necessary for a particular foetus. Go after police departments who won't give pregnant officers flak-jackets to protect the baby. Go after corporations who release poisons into the environment and the food chain. Try to charge negligence, wherever risk to a wanted foetus can be shown.

The cases don't need to be entirely legally air-tight; they don't even need to get into court. They need to be popular. They need to attack the system/culture/assumptions.

They need to very carefully avoid women's right to bodily integrity. They need always to say, "a woman who wants to keep her baby".

Fight tooth and nail to salvage what you can of Wade vs Roe, sure. But don't pass up the opportunities either.

Maybe there is nothing to be had from this, although I doubt so. Nothing will be had unless some skilled motivated women seek it.

There is this, too 28.Mar.2004 04:01


Sending phalanxes of Jill Irelands after your hometown senator won't work.

He's lying. She knows he's lying. He knows she knows.

But the women in your neighbourhood don't know.

What if they, registered Republicans and Democrats every one, started gossiping, in checkout-lines and church-basements, in locker-rooms and political-meetings, about America's new found love for women and children?

Charlie says 28.Mar.2004 09:48

Eat My Mercury

Start with the tuna/mercury suppliers (fishermen) and dealers (supermarkets, restaurants, cafeterias, etc).

So, '.' 05.Apr.2004 21:38


Are working with my suggestions?

Or are you just wandering around telling eveybody who can't escape what a great women's rights activist you are?

Good call, Charlie!