Nevertheless, the committee voted to send the bill to the Senate floor where it easily passed. Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman signed the bill, making New Jersey the 42nd state to put young women at risk by mandating parental involvement in their decision on abortion.
Gov. Whitman's support of the bill was a shock, as she had previously opposed such legislation. Whitman had claimed she would do nothing to interfere with "a woman's ability to have an abortion." (5/99, The Record, Bergen County, NJ).
This fall, the New Jersey Assembly will take up an abortion procedures ban, and Whitman has announced she will sign it if it gets to her desk. Whitman's recent support for abortion restrictions may be an attempt to further align herself with right-wing Republicans as she eyes a possible vice-presidential nomination by her party.
Contact NOW NJ President Elizabeth Volz at 609-939-0156 or by e-mail
at NOWNJ@aol.com to get involved.
Contact Maine Coordinator, Renee Berry-Huffman at RBHJustice@aol.com for information on how you can support Maine NOW's efforts.
NOW and other reproductive rights supporters defeated abortion procedures ban referenda in Colorado and Washington last fall. The measures failed in large part because voters felt the language was vague and had concerns about criminalizing medical procedures.
Barring other unforeseen difficulty, Mifepristone is expected to be available for general use soon; it is currently available in clinical trials in cases with critical health needs. Contact Jennifer Jackman at the Feminist Majority's Compassionate Use Program, 703-522-2214 for more info.
Injury to a fetus is also injury to a woman. Such crimes should be prosecuted as crimes against women. This bill is a backdoor attempt to obtain separate rights for the fetus. Independent prosecution for harming fetuses is a dangerous legal precedent with broad implications in limiting women's reproductive freedom.
Sponsors of the act, Reps. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Charles Canady, R-Fla., are reproductive rights opponents. They claim the legislation would protect women and fetuses against violence, yet none of the sponsors support the Violence Against Women Act. The Unborn Victims bill is expected to have a full committee hearing in September.
When women's rights advocates in Congress attempted to include money for federally- funded abortions in cases of rape or incest in the Defense Appropriations bill, Republican members proposed adding "forcible" to rape and reporting requirements for rape and incest.
"Some members of Congress are again showing how poorly informed they
are and how little they care about women," says Johnson. "I suppose they're
trying to distinguish from consensual rape. What are they thinking?"
In the end, the ban on abortion at a military facility was retained.
The so-called Child
Custody Protection Act (H.R. 1218) attempts to legislate family communication,
but would, in fact, have the opposite effect. Approximately 75 percent
of young women already involve a parent when faced with an unintended pregnancy.
Minors who cannot confide in their parents usually turn to a trusted adult.
However, many would not do so knowing that the adult would face
prison for providing assistance. Ninety-three percent of minors are
accompanied by an adult to an abortion clinic.
The Alan Guttmacher Institute reports women pay 68 percent more than men in out-of- pocket medical care. Studies show that the cost of this benefit to employees and employers would be minimal.
Coverage for contraception is popular, and if the measure fails to move
forward—as in the previous Congress—NOW could help make it an important
election year issue. Seven states (Conn., Ga., Hawaii, Maine, Neb., Vt.
and Md.) have passed contraceptive equity bills.
The requirement also included a controversial exemption for plans with religious objections to opt out of contraceptive coverage. This year, the fight was over an amendment offered by arch-abortion-rights opponent Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., to allow health plans under FEHBP to decline coverage if the plans held a "moral conviction" against birth control.
Smith argued that most contraceptives, including the emergency contraceptive Preven, are actually abortifacients. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., valiantly fought these amendments, but was unsuccessful.
However, the House again approved an amendment by Rep. Smith to ban U.S. international family planning funds to organizations that perform abortions or engage in discussions about abortion laws — even when they use non-U.S. funds to provide those services. With this restriction, the U.S. is contributing to the deaths of 600,000 women from pregnancy and childbirth each year, with 75,000 of those dying from unsafe abortions.