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April 3, 2004
The anti-abortion movement scored a big symbolic victory this week, if not a significant legal one, as President George W. Bush enthusiastically signed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
Those who believe in a woman's right to choose abortion fear that the law takes the nation down that proverbial slippery slope with its declaration that a fetus has legal protection from the moment of conception. Those who think abortion is the worst kind of murder celebrate the beginning of the end of this procedure in this country.
Not exactly, on either count. No matter how many times Bush and Congress try to make a fetus a person in legislation and government code, Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land. The 1973 Supreme Court said that no one could define when life begins, but that was not the issue. Rather, the issue is whether a fetus has a right to birth that supersedes a woman's right to dominion over her own body. The court said a fetus does not, and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act does not change that.
But the new law -- and the rhetoric around it -- do show that the aim of Bush, and the Christian Right to whom he answers, is to overturn the Roe decision. Acts such as this may not do it, but Bush could pave the way if given the chance to appoint a Supreme Court justice who shares his view.
The president already has said that his ideal justices are Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. And as he signed the bill, Bush also proclaimed: "We reaffirm that the United States of America is building a culture of life."
So while this particular act does not apply to abortion -- which enabled it to comfortably pass Congress -- it is another signal of the president's hope to someday use other means to finally end abortion rights.
Copyright © 2004 Detroit Free Press Inc.