(WOMENSENEWS)–Recent battles over the “partial-birth abortion” bills, parental consent laws and the current battle for the presidency highlight the fact that as we begin the 21st century, women’s reproductive rights are far from guaranteed.
The Republican Party’s platform explicitly states the party’s position against reproductive freedom for women while the Democratic Party swears it will defend women’s right to choose.
The stark difference between the two candidates, Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore, and between their parties has received relatively little media attention, in part, because the media are likely to believe that the question of whether a woman has a right to chose whether to become a mother was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, in Roe v. Wade.
However, while the anti-choice forces have been unsuccessful in their efforts to overturn that ruling, anti-choice organizations have been able to chip away at women’s access to abortion. Their impact can be seen in the elimination of Medicaid coverage of abortion in the late 1970s, the creation of restrictive state laws requiring waiting periods and parental consent for minors and the transformation of health clinics into literal battle grounds through harassment and violence.
At the same time, political leaders have blamed unmarried women when they do have children, especially young women, low-income women and women of color. Democrats and Republicans alike voted for the 1996 law that drastically limited federal welfare payments to single mothers and funded abstinence-only education.
Grasp of Anti-Choice Strategies Necessary to Protect Right to Choose
Beleaguered pro-choice activists have stemmed some of the anti-choice attacks on women’s reproductive freedoms but they often do not have the time to step back from the most recent assault and consider the larger context.
In this time of uncertainty, it is even more crucial to not get lost in the day-to-day battles. In order to formulate the most effective response, it is essential to develop a clear understanding of the strategies and impact of the anti-choice forces’ attack on reproductive freedoms.
Political Research Associates, a Massachusetts-based independent research center that monitors and analyzes the U.S. political right, has just released “Defending Reproductive Rights” as a resource for activists in meeting this end.
To support the work of pro-choice organizers, health care providers and feminist activists, this 150-page Activist Resource Kit provides in-depth analysis, talking points and compilations of resources. An overview article chronicles the attack on reproductive rights with a detailed analysis. The kit also provides a section on suggested responses to common anti-choice arguments, practical tips for dealing with anti-choice leaders, reprints of useful articles, annotated lists of pro- and anti-choice organizations and bibliographies of relevant articles and books.
As the climate in the nation has been influenced over the last few decades by social conservatives advocating a return to “traditional family values,” the gains in women’s reproductive rights have become more and more precarious. In this struggle over women’s autonomy, it is essential for pro-choice activists to have a solid understanding of the forces determined to curtail women’s freedoms.
Mitra Rastegar is a researcher at Political Research Associates.
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