New bill aims to defend womens rights

National Organization for Women (NOW) President Kim Gandy and other women’s rights leaders held a Washington, D.C., press conference Jan. 22, the 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, to announce the introduction of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) that would codify the landmark Supreme Court decision protecting reproductive rights.

The passage of FOCA (S. 2020/H.R. 3719) would be an important step toward permanently ensuring reproductive rights in the event that the Supreme Court allowed states to re-criminalize abortion, the feminist leaders said, and defeating George W. Bush in November is the number one priority.

Warning that Roe v. Wade “is hanging by a thread,” NOW declared that “the time is right for a public demonstration of historic size in support of abortion rights and reproductive freedom for all women” and called for an all-out mobilization for the April 25 March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C.

Along with the Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI), Feminist Majority Foundation, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NOW is planning what it has predicted will be “the most significant and massive abortion rights march in over a decade.”

The BWHI, formerly the National Black Women’s Health Project, wants to make one thing clear: “Black women are seriously concerned about attacks on our reproductive health and we stand up for our rights. [Our] reproductive health agenda includes the right to have healthy children, and to be free of coercive and punitive government interference in matters as enormous and personal as when and whether to have a child.”

More than 51 percent of Latinas lack health insurance and more than 28 percent of pregnant Latinas do not receive prenatal care, according to the NLIRH. In addition, government policies restricting public funding for abortion are making it impossible for many Latinas to even consider abortion as an option.

“With George Bush looking at potential Supreme Court nominees who are not only very conservative, but very young – high 30s, young 40s – he has the opportunity to stack the court with judges who will carry out an anti-woman, anti-reproductive freedom philosophy for another 35 to 40 years,” said Gandy.

“It’s about more than abortion,” believes Trish Milner, one of several women in northern New Jersey hoping to organize a bus to Washington for April 25. “It’s about civil liberties and rights and everything that goes along with freedoms.”

Calling George W. Bush “a man who stole an election, who went to war without a consensus,” Milner agreed with those who warn that if President Bush is re-elected, Roe v. Wade will be in dire jeopardy.

Today’s young women grew up in a time when the option of legal, safe abortion has always been available to them, Milner said, and as a result they may underestimate the Bush administration’s determination to destroy reproductive rights for women.

NARAL Pro-Choice America’s annual review of reproductive rights laws released last month, “Who Decides? A State-by-State Report on the Status of Women’s Reproductive Rights,” revealed an unprecedented assault on a woman’s right to choose. In 2003, states enacted 45 anti-choice measures – a 32.4 percent increase from 2002 – and President Bush signed the first federal criminal ban on abortion into law.

“Not only do we have to get young people to march,” Milner said, “we need to get them to vote.” Defeating George W. Bush in November is job number one.

The author can be reached at crummel@pww.org.

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March for Women’s Lives, Sunday, April 25

The march will begin at noon from the Lincoln Memorial and proceed to the National Mall where a rally will be held from 1-4 p.m. Marchers will assemble at 10 a.m. Accessible march route and translators will be available for persons with disabilities. For more info contact the March for Women’s Lives, 1725 Eye Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20006; (202) 349-3838, or visit www.marchforwomen.org.