Where Do Republicans Stand on Abortion?
This November, South Dakotans will send a strong message to the rest of the country after they vote on the nation's most restrictive state abortion ban, which offers no exceptions for rape and incest.
Politicians on Capitol Hill will be watching this vote closely, especially the forty-six Senators who have a zero percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America and a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee. All 46 are Republican and with the exception of Sens. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, they are all men.
I recently placed two rounds of phone calls asking each of those 46 Senator two questions: Do you favor overturning Roe v. Wade? If so, do you support exceptions for rape and incest?
Once I mentioned the words "abortion" and "rape," Senate staffers either transferred me to voicemail or said, "I'll have to look into that." I have yet to receive any answers.
So far, only three Republican Senators have publicly gone on record stating their positions on the law. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas told Newsweek he would have signed it. "Rape and incest are horrible crimes, but why punish the innocent child?"
Sen. George Allen of Virginia has said if a similar bill landed on his desk when he was governor, he would have vetoed it. Sen. John McCain of Arizona has said he supports banning abortion with exceptions to protect the life of the mother and in cases of rape or incest.
If South Dakota voters approve the ban, a young girl who is raped by a male relative will be forced to carry the child to term. Similar laws are under consideration in Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee and West Virginia. The Ohio ban goes even further by making it a crime to accompany a woman to a clinic that provides abortions in another state.
Efforts to outlaw abortion in Kentucky and Mississippi were defeated on March 25 and March 27 respectively.
And that's just the beginning. More than 850 choice-related state bills have been introduced or carried over in the first two months of the 2006 legislative session, according to Planned Parenthood. These include laws to restrict funding to family planning clinics and allow pharmacists to refuse to dispense contraception. Not only are anti-choicers going after abortion, they're also targeting birth control.
What's in store for America's women if these laws continue to pass?
Look at Africa, where this year alone, more than four million women will face serious injuries as a result of abortions performed by unskilled people under unsanitary conditions, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Nearly 30,000 women will die. That's almost 90 per day.
"These preventable deaths and illness represent not only a major public health crisis, but also a social injustice and violation of women's human rights and dignity," said a WHO report on abortion.
Like South Dakota, abortion is illegal in most African countries, with an exception to save a woman's life. At a March meeting in Addis Ababa, more than 150 health experts and politicians from 16 African countries called for relaxed abortion laws and greater access to birth control and sex education to prevent further deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions.
Over the past 10 years, 15 countries around the world, including Nepal and Burkina Faso, have relaxed their abortions laws. After South Africa legalized abortion without any restrictions in 1997, the country saw a drastic drop in abortion deaths, from 425 per year to less than 20.
Only five countries, including the United States and Poland, have restricted access to abortion.
Governments can outlaw abortion, but if a South Dakotan or Kenyan woman wants to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, she will do whatever it takes, even if it means risking her life.
If this is the future anti-abortion lawmakers want for American women, they should be pressured to say so.