Roe v. Wade -- 30 Years and Counting 

"What the Supreme Court giveth, the Supreme Court can taketh away."

--Sonia Johnson

Women quite literally took their lives into their hands on Election Day 2002.

The jury is still out on whether they made the right decisions for themselves, their sisters, daughters, nieces, and granddaughters; decisions that may lead to many girls' and women's deaths.

No, we're not talking about the impending war, although we might as well be, as the current administration and Congress have even less regard for the lives of women and children abroad than for those at home.

Just as they use words like "collateral damage" to mask the slaughter of women and children in Afghanistan and Iraq, they'll apply euphemisms to women who die of illegal abortions when Roe v. Wade is overturned. "Baby-killers." "Murderers." We wouldn't even be surprised at "terrorists." (Read: women who essentially "deserve" the death penalty a certain former Texas governor loved to invoke.)

In November, women -- the majority voter bloc in this country -- removed the last barrier to the appointment of anti-abortion Supreme Court justices by electing a Republican-controlled Senate.

After all, the Senate has already confirmed two of Bush's anti-choice judges, Michael McConnell and Dennis Shedd, to federal district courts, and the president just renominated two more, Charles Pickering and Priscilla Owen -- who were previously rejected by the Democratic Senate.

This means anti-choice forces will now control 11 of the 13 U.S. district courts.

Have women today succumbed to cynicism or complacency about their right to self-determination? Even pro-choice women we know are saying, "Oh, they would never overturn Roe. There would be a huge public outcry!"

But did the Supreme Court pay attention to public opinion in 2000, during Gore v. Bush?

When Bush gives the State of the Union address this month, will he discuss the state of women's constitutional right to privacy in their life decisions? Will he mention that in fully 86 percent of the counties throughout the United States, there already exists no abortion provider?

Will he mention that abortion procedures are taught in only 12 percent of medical schools across the nation?

Or that homegrown terrorists have in recent years murdered seven doctors and committed 41 bombings against women's health clinics?

Or that women serving our country in his "war on terrorism" can't get an abortion abroad, even if they are raped by their fellow servicemen?

Will he mention that he has stopped all UN family planning funding to countries he purports to "set free" from religious fundamentalist dictators?

No, he won't have to address these travesties because people who voted for his anti-abortion senators just gave him a free pass to stack the already tenuous 54 Supreme Court with more right-wing justices to overturn Roe v. Wade anyway.

At 30, Roe is barely a few years older than its champion, Sarah Weddington, was when she argued the case in front of the Supreme Court at the age of 26. Then, Weddington shocked the nation by outsmarting a "good ole boy" Texas prosecutor who didn't prepare for the case, thinking a lil gal just out of law school didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell against him. (This was similar to the thinking of most congressmen when amending the equal pay provision into the 1964 Civil Rights Act -- "It'll never pass with that in it!")

Yet for all Weddington's legal acumen, and for all the campaign stops she made in 2002, she cannot stop this birthday from potentially being Roe's last.

Is there anything we can still do to keep even the shell of Roe in place for future generations?

The only thing now standing between us and Bush's Supreme Court nominees is a Senate filibuster, a tactic used to stall a full vote on the Senate floor. The Republicans do not have the two-thirds majority necessary to stop such a filibuster.

As such, the National Organization for Women (NOW) is calling on all women to contact their senators in support of this strategy against every anti-abortion judicial nominee.

NOW is currently collecting 30,000 signatures on a petition to deliver to the Senate this week. To sign it, go to www.now.org.

It is indeed time to reinvigorate, and call to action a new generation.

Melanie Stafford is a National NOW Board Member and Regional Director of five states for NOW. Nan Stilwagen is the president of the Pikes Peak Chapter of NOW.


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