For the Right to Choose

Marin Cohn

As I write this, our economic situation seems to be front-lining the media in regard to the Presidential candidates. How to expand healthcare, fund (or not) the war in Iraq and how to deal with energy reform, and even Global Warming, all relate to government implementing policies or incentives, letting the market fix our ailments or taking an active role in change. But with our economic future in the forefront of our decisions, it is easy to forget about the candidate’s position in other areas, like women’s choice.

In 2003, President Bush signed a revised version of the partial-birth abortion ban, a bill twice vetoed by President Clinton in 1996 and 1998, as well as in 2000 by the Supreme Court. Partial-birth abortions – a word loaded with “baby-killer” connotations to make once a private decision between doctors and their patients sound murderous – is considered by many doctors to be the safest way to remove a fetus between 20 and 24 weeks from the womb while maintaining the health of the mother and enabling her to give birth in the future. Scenarios when this happens are, consequently, not in the usual sense of “abortion” as conservative proponents of this promulgate. The procedure is rather carried out in instances of early conception, when the fetus born has little to no chance of surviving a few hours, let alone longer.

In general, doctors agree that the earliest a fetus is able to live outside of the womb is 25 weeks, most otherwise too small to breathe, even with assistance. In a study carried out in 1995, there were 138 live births at 22 weeks. Roughly 84 percent died in the delivery room and 14 percent were in intensive care with a one percent survival rate and basically guaranteed severe disabilities, including brain damage. The intact dilation and extraction procedure, outlawed by President Bush or the “partial-birth abortion” typically used in pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks, in turn acted as a means of allowing parents to forego the painful process at the cost of both their own and their child’s pain.

The beliefs of the incumbent administration regarding woman’s rights are thus crucial. With looming vacancies in the Supreme Court – Justice John Paul Stevens is 87, for one – our next president will most likely be in the position to appoint new justices to serve the court. Another conservative appointment in turn presents a very real and frightening threat to the freedom granted by Roe V. Wade being overturned.

I believe that no one issue should take the forefront on dictating a voter’s decision abortion, the economy or otherwise. All policies should be weighed in their own right, and this particular issue dealing with a woman’s freedom and privacy happens to deal directly with my own.