Friday, March 25, 2011

Repel attack on reproductive rights

Adults of childbearing age need to wake up to moves by state governments to restrict their right to make reproductive decisions for themselves.

They need to contact their representatives, make their feelings known and plan to put them into action at the ballot box.

In 1973, a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in the United States. Since then, abortion foes have looked tirelessly for ways to subvert the decision and make abortion so restrictive as to be impossible for most American women.

To put what is at stake in perspective, we must look back to the days before Roe v. Wade when women who desired to end a pregnancy had few options.

While the wealthy could travel to another country to get a safe abortion, those unable to pay for plane tickets and hotels were left with underground abortionists, many of whom were untrained hacks whose handiwork left women maimed or dying.

Women, even those carrying fetuses that would inevitably die shortly after birth from painful genetic diseases, were forced to carry pregnancies to term.

The ban put doctors who secretly performed safe abortions at risk of being prosecuted as criminals.

The Supreme Court's decision put an end to the nightmare of illegal abortion, but abortion rights again need defense.

The Idaho Senate this week voted to ban most abortions after 20 weeks of gestation with no exceptions for rape, incest or to save the life of the mother—detestable on its face.

The Senate did so based on the unproven and disputed contention of sponsors that a fetus may show signs of pain by that time. It did so against the advice of the state attorney general who contends that the bill is unconstitutional as written. It did so despite the fact that passage could put a state up to its neck in red ink in an expensive lawsuit with little chance that the law will pass legal muster.

Nebraska approved a similar law last year that has not been challenged, and others are pending in Kansas and Oklahoma.

This week, South Dakota approved the most restrictive abortion law in the nation. It imposes a 72-hour waiting period and requires women seeking abortions to submit to so-called "counseling" from people who oppose abortion.

This differs from other states that require women to receive counseling on health risks from medical professionals.

Opponents also want to outlaw even private insurance coverage for abortions.

In 1990, then Gov. Cecil Andrus, who opposed abortion, vetoed a restrictive abortion bill because it made no exception for rape. Gov. Butch Otter should put legislators on notice that he will follow suit.

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