Panel: Election Will Affect Abortion
Five pro-abortion activists discussed issues of reproductive rights in the U.S. on a panel yesterday, with several saying they feared George W. Bush would make it harder to get a safe, legal abortion.
Jen Dodge, Rosemary Candelario, Judy Norsigien, Ann Lambert and Dr. Maureen Paul were the participants in "Access Denied: the Struggle for Reproductive Rights in the 21st Century," hosted by the Harvard group Students for Choice.
"No matter which way this plays out, [abortion] will remain an important issue," said Candelario, a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, about the presidential election. "It's something we always have to be vigilant about."
The consensus among the panelists, however, was that the election of Bush would endanger abortion rights if he appointed anti-abortion Supreme Court judges.
Lambert, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said Roe v. Wade does not mean that abortion rights will always be protected.
"So many of us thought that Roe meant we had won," Lambert said. "We didn't realize this was as fragile as it turned out to be," referring to the possibility that a Supreme Court under Bush could overturn the ruling.
"The president has a lot of power on the local level," added Dodge, political organizer for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.
Paul praised Attorney General Janet Reno for her "no-tolerance" approach to anti-abortion violence. Paul said that when she received death threats for performing abortions, she was immediately put under Federal Bureau of Investigation protection.
She said she believed anti-abortion violence has had a major impact on the reproductive rights of women.
"Between 1982 and 1992 we lost one third of the facilities that provide abortions" because of harassment and violence towards abortion doctors, Paul said.
Norsigien, a representative of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, said that she knew a family doctor in New Mexico who had to wear a bulletproof vest to work every day because he performed abortions and feared for his life.
"There has to be a another way for people against abortion to express themselves," she said.
Candelario argued that pro-abortion beliefs are compatible with religion.
"For so many people...[pro-life ideology] is associated with being religious," Candelario said, but "being pro-choice and being religious isn't contradictory."
Candelario said Protestantism, Unitarianism and Judaism are not incompatible with pro-abortion beliefs.
Norsigien said that before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, some clergy members helped women get safe illegal abortions.
"They really saw the concrete results of illegal abortion," she said.
Paul described how when she tried to get an illegal abortion in college, a police officer came to her door, gave her a password and said she had to have three hundred dollars when she was picked up for the procedure.
In the end, Paul carried the pregnancy to term.
"There was really a form of incredible coercion and violence towards women" before Roe v. Wade was passed, Paul said.
All of the panelists urged students to get involved in fighting for abortion access.
"It's really folks like you who make all the difference," Paul told the audience, "and this is your moment."