Perhaps you felt great discomfiture about having the swing 5 to 4 vote on the US Supreme Court fall into the hands of a Catholic white male judge who was accused of sexual misconduct as a teen. However, we should recall that another conservative judge, Harry Blackmun, appointed by President Nixon in 1970 wrote the opinion on Roe v Wade that got 7 of nine justices’ approval to give women the right to a safe legal abortion.
While that Roe decision has been since widely challenged by those who believe in forced pregnancies, the passage of Planned Parenthood v Casey in 1992 reinforced the right of abortion up to viability (i.e. the ability of the fetus to survive outside the womb) and was thus further support for the long held legal value of precedence, a view which Kavanaugh told Senator Feinstein was in the case of Roe “settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court entitled to the respect under principles of ‘stare decisis’ referring to the doctrine of following legal precedent it has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years” and reinforcement by Planned Parenthood v Casey.
Only time and the performance of Kavanaugh on the court can prove whether he will fail in following this precedent, but advances in abortion methods since Roe have greatly enlarged the access women have to early safe inexpensive abortions both here and overseas.
That said, US government policies are still waging powerful influences on women’s right to choose. This condition goes back now for decades and is far more damaging than most people realize. Let me explain.
Let’s start with the Hyde Amendment, named for its chief sponsor the late Henry Hyde (Dr Jekyll’s alter ego?). Passed in 1976, the Hyde Amendment was a legislative provision barring the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except to save the life of the woman. President Clinton in 1993 got changes which added rape and incest as exception to Hyde. However, on January 24, 2017, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 7, which, according to the press office of Speaker Paul Ryan, “makes the Hyde amendment permanent.”
Imagine, no Federal money to help women get a safe abortion unless they are about to die of child birth, or have been raped or about to bear the children as the result of incest. Ryan seems smugly pleased with his efforts. Unsafe restrictions since 1976!
And to quote Wikipedia, “the Hyde Amendment, generally restricts the use of funds allocated for the Department of Health and Human Services and consequently has significant effects involving Medicaid recipients. Medicaid currently serves approximately 15.6 million women in the United States, including 1 in 5 women of reproductive age (women aged 15–44)”. The US continues its dark history against women’s reproductive rights.
The second disastrous restriction on a woman’s right to choose actually preceded Hyde in 1973. Again as Wikipedia tells us,
The Helms Amendment, also known as the Helms Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, is a 1973 amendment, passed by the U.S. Congress in the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision by the United States Supreme Court, to limit the use of US foreign assistance for abortion. Named after North Carolina senator Jesse Helms, the amendment states that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” In addition, this amendment overturned previous rulings that state that the unborn is not a “person” yet and therefore does not have constitutional rights, changing the stance on abortion not only in funding but also in the courts. However, if one is able to afford an abortion, the amendment allows for post-abortion care.
Despite its focus on “abortion as a method of family planning,” American global health funding programs, such as USAID, currently interpret the Helms Amendment language to exclude funding for abortion services in cases not connected to family planning, such as rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.
Now that Kavanaugh is confirmed, 20 states are poised to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, meaning over 25 million women of reproductive age could lose access to safe, legal abortion.
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) October 13, 2018
These dismal rules have now been in place for decades causing huge hardships on women. It is so heartbreakingly ironic that in this current atmosphere of trying to prevent sexual harassment (the #MeToo movement) that Hyde and Helms are still permitted to invade the right of privacy so long ago made legal in Roe v Wade. Yes, I felt keenly the situation suffered by Dr. Ford in front of that Senate committee, but here we are talking about already an unwanted actuated life threatening situation where options are withheld to please some religious belief that is unproven and untenable. Pregnancies are potentially dangerous and should be allowed to proceed with the full acceptance of the potential mother, not the false bleating of a male Pope many of whose clergy are pedophiles.
As the result of the Republicans failure to take conservative Barry Goldwater’s advice not to embrace the Evangelicals led by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, that lethal anti woman combo bolstered by the Catholic hierarchy delivers Helms again every time a Republican President takes office. As Wikipedia tells us,
The Global gag rule, also known as the ‘Mexico City policy’, is in accordance with the Helms Amendment of 1973. The order bans foreign aid from the United States to be directed to any non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide any services relating to abortions. In 1984 the Global Gag Order was first placed by former President Reagan and remained active through former President Bush. In 1993 when former President Clinton took office the order was rescinded until 2001. Former President George W. Bush placed the order back into effect until his presidency was over in 2009. Then when former President Obama took office the order was once again rescinded until 2017. On Jan 23, 2017 President Donald Trump, signed an executive order implementing the order once again.
One can have deep empathy for Dr Ford and for what has occurred for far too long against women. I get that. But I also want to remind my readers of a far worse statistical record against women’s rights through Republican enactment of Hyde and Helms decades ago.
From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013
By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
Back in 1991, the NGO Don Collins founded in 1976, International Services Assistance Fund (ISAF), co-produced a TV quality 22-minute film called “Whose Choice?” which Ted Turner arranged to broadcast on September 21, 1992 in prime time on his then independent Turner Broadcast System (TBS). Other outlets such as PBS and several of its affiliates Collins and his colleagues contacted then refused to run it because of its forthright treatment of the abortion issue, arguing for all women’s right to choose not to have a baby. ISAF has made a new edition of that DVD. The purpose for reissuing this 3rd version of “Whose Choice?” was simply to show the historical urgency that attended those times, still blocked and attacked over 40 years after the Roe v Wade decision in 1973. This video is available for public viewing for the first time.
Time to go, Hyde Amendment
How Helms Hurts Women and Girls in War
How The Global Gag Rule Is Hurting Women Around The World | VICE on HBO, Season 6
Abortion Was Illegal. This Secret Group Defied the Law | Retro Report
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