Gathering Places


30 years and counting,
but for how much longer?

As we come to the 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling, which secured for women the fundamental civil and human right to control their own reproductive choices, we face a future where abortion rights could disappear. With an anti-choice president and an anti-choice majority in the Senate, just one turned vote in the Supreme Court could lead to the elimination of the constitutional protections that have safeguarded American women for three decades.

It is with great precision that George W. Bush is systematically working to gut reproductive freedom and build a platform to outlaw abortion in the United States and around the world. The president's key cabinet appointments, his judicial nominations, and a string of anti-choice regulations and executive orders speak clearly of his mission to eliminate a woman's right to make her own childbearing decisions.

The Bush administration has stopped at nothing to deny women their reproductive rights. He is writing the book on repression of women slowly, systematically and with little fanfare. Often shielded by the smokescreen of a war on terrorism and a struggling economy, the policy changes get little public notice, much less outcry.

Critical cabinet positions, important scientific posts and nominees to the federal bench are being filled with individuals who are staunchly anti-choice. Ideology is replacing science. The administration has sought to advance the position that life begins at conception and to redefine and elevate the legal status of the fetus to equal that of a person. Funding has been tripled for harmful and medically unproven abstinence-only sexuality education. Millions of dollars for valuable programs run by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Population Fund to advance reproductive health have been frozen. "Unborn children," rather than pregnant women, now are eligible for coverage under the Children's Health Insurance Program. Medically accurate information about contraceptives has been removed from federal Web sites.

Isn't it sad that our president also has declared war on the very items that reduce abortion -- easy access to contraceptives and medically accurate sexuality education to our teens?

The position that the Bush administration has taken in its international war against women's rights is shocking. President Bush had been in office for just one day when he reinstated the global gag rule barring foreign health providers who receive any U.S. funds from counseling women about abortion, engaging in political speech on abortion or providing abortion services -- even with their own money. Bush administration delegates tried to block U.N. plans to promote children's health because the language supported "reproductive health services." They opposed efforts to help girls who are victims of war crimes (often rape) because they may be provided with information about emergency contraception or abortion. Last month at a U.N. population conference, the United States unsuccessfully tried to block an endorsement of condom use to prevent the transmission of AIDS.

Although Hawaii became the first state to decriminalize abortion in 1970, years before Roe v. Wade, reproductive freedom has been under attack in our islands. In each of the last several legislative sessions, a dozen bills were introduced that would restrict a woman's choice.

So on this 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that secured for women one of their most basic human rights, we are not only celebrating -- we are standing sentry at the gate of reproductive freedom.

We call on everyone in Hawaii who values human rights to work to protect the freedom for women to make their own childbearing choices.

Barry Raff is CEO of Planned Parenthood of Hawaii, a nonprofit agency providing reproductive health care, education and advocacy since 1966.

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