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Go to www.senate.gov to find your senator and how to contact him/her.

These two sites can help you learn more about abortion rights and what you can do:


Pro Life / Pro Choice: The Debate Rages On


When I was on the newspaper staff in high school, I remember writing an editorial about abortion. At the time, it was a really hot topic. No matter how people felt about it, everyone felt strongly, and they had a hard time understanding how anyone could think differently than they did. Emotions ran high when the subject came up, and some people even died defending what they believed. To be honest with you, eight years later, I thought the issue had been put to rest. After all of the fighting and protesting (on both sides), America seemed to have come to terms with the fact that abortion is, and would remain, an individual right that American law defends. Now, with our new president in office, it looks like we all have to address the issue once more, and the outcome of this fray will be anyone's guess. I'd rather put money down on the Super Bowl than predict how this will end.

In the famous court case, Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court effectively made abortion legal in the United States. Usually, when the Supreme Court makes a law, it becomes…well…law. We don't question it. But surrounding the subject of abortion, from the time of Roe v. Wade, 28 years ago, all the way up to now, there has always been controversy. Americans feel so passionately about it that, even though the Supreme Court has made its decision, the troops stay ready and the battle still rages.

Let's look at the recent history of the abortion debate:

1973: Roe v. Wade declares that women have the right to choose to terminate an unwanted or dangerous pregnancy.
1973: A law is passed that prohibits the use of government funds for any abortion service, including counseling, both in the U.S. and overseas in lesser-developed countries.
1992: Bill Clinton repeals the law when he takes office, releasing millions of dollars of government funds to help educate and counsel women around the world about contraception, family planning, and abortion. Groups also helped women lobby for abortion rights in their own native countries.
2001: On January 23, the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, George W. Bush reinstates the law and makes it even tighter.

Before, it was illegal for the government to fund abortion-related activity. Basically, the government would help fund family-planning groups who taught women about contraception and safe sex, but they had to raise their own money in order to actually help women get abortions. Now, any group who even counsels women on abortion cannot receive any government funds at all. It doesn't matter if they are performing the abortions or not. If they talk about it, they get no government funding. This is why it's called the "global gag rule."

People on the conservative side of the issue say that it only affects abortion, and that the U.S. government shouldn't be paying for this service overseas anyway. Opponents of the new law feel that it will have a much greater impact. "This is not about abortion…it is about access to contraception. It is about freedom of speech. The global gag rule will destroy both," said New York Representative Nita Lowey. She expressed the same concern that many people have.

Most of the groups that will be affected offer a range of services to local women who cannot get help from their own governments. In most lesser-developed countries, education about safe sex, disease control, and birth control are almost nonexistent. Populations soar, keeping everyone's quality of life at a low level. Organizations like Population Action International, which advocates voluntary family planning overseas, will be forced to do one of two things. They either have to stop talking to local women about their options regarding abortion, or they have to give up all federal funding for their program. To the people working there, who are trying to help educate people internationally, neither option is acceptable.

Many anti-abortion believers say they don't know what the fuss is all about. All Bush has done is made it illegal for government funding to go toward abortion or abortion counseling. Everyone knows that when a Republican takes office, government spending gets cut left and right. That's part of the conservative platform. Lower taxes, and fewer government-supported programs.

So what's the big surprise? The interesting thing here is that Bush has made this his first presidential action. When he ran his campaign for the presidency, he called himself a moderate Republican, a compassionate conservative. In one debate with Al Gore, he even said that he believed in a woman's right to choose. In his inauguration speech, he spoke of bridging the gap between the two parties, and he promised that he would be "everybody's president". Now it seems he has pulled off his rubber mask of moderation and delved right in to fighting the Supreme Court's verdict from the get-go.

Another big concern for abortion-advocates right now is Bush's selection of a U.S. Attorney General. For his top-cop, Bush chose John Ashcroft, an ultra-right-wing politician from Missouri. He has a long history of vehement opposition to abortion, and many politicians and citizens say that will be a huge problem. As Attorney General, Ashcroft would be responsible for protecting the law. That's not to say that he makes the laws, but he will have to choose which laws he focuses on enforcing. Some people worry that he will turn a blind eye to protecting people from abortion-protestors. We have seen in the past that these protests can get very violent. In the past few years, several abortion clinics have been bombed, and women going to the clinics to get abortions have had to be escorted for protection. If Ashcroft wins approval from the Senate and becomes Attorney General, which is very likely, he will be responsible for protecting the women wading through protesters to get to these clinics. The key question now is "Will he?" Will he spend time, effort, and money to protect something that he detests? We can only trust that he is telling the truth when he says very simply, "Yes."

The fact that Bush has decided to make this his number one priority, along with the inevitable acceptance of John Ashcroft as Attorney General, has many Americans wondering what road we are going down. It seems that the White House is pushing us in the direction of overturning Roe v. Wade. For the record, this can only happen if the Supreme Court overturns it. But guess who appoints justices to the Supreme Court. You guessed it: George W.

There are a lot of ways to make yourself heard on this subject. Writing to your school newspaper is one. Writing to your new president, or sending an email to your Senator is another. Senators will have to vote on whether or not to accept John Ashcroft as Attorney General. If he does get confirmed, write to him and express to him your hope that he will uphold the law, which is that women are allowed to choose, instead of his personal opinions.

Bush's Address:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Bush's Email: president@whitehouse.gov


Links to Other Dispatches

Daphne - A fish, a bicycle and a woman named Gloria
Irene - Roe vs. Wade: Bringing balance to the two sides of the issue
Jennifer - If it's a man's world, what's a girl to do?
Neda - You go, girl! Empowering women everywhere