National NOW Times >> Spring, 2001 >> Article
Bad News Keeps Getting Worse
When George W. Bush was declared president, feminists
knew that women’s rights were at serious risk. But even those of us who
campaigned against Bush, those who warned that abortion rights,
reproductive freedom and all women’s rights would be threatened by a
second Bush administration, were devastated by the new president’s early
Even before President Bush took the oath of office, his
Cabinet nominees shattered any hope that he might keep his campaign
promise of “compassionate conservatism.” Retreads from his father’s
administration have been joined by darlings of the radical right-wing to
fill out W’s team. Proponents of some of the most regressive social
policies are the new caretakers of our nation’s resources.
first day of work in the Oval Office, with the stroke of a pen, President
Bush eliminated international family planning funding to organizations
that offer abortion counseling or abortion services. In justifying his
actions, President Bush explained that he did not believe that the
government should support organizations that support abortion — even
though the federal funds in question were segregated and could not be used
to pay for abortion services.
In a classic example of W-speak,
President Bush defended his proposal to give federal funding to
faith-based social service programs because those monies would be
earmarked for social services, not religious services. In other words,
when it suits the president’s political agenda, funds are fungible. And
reporters overheard our new president boasting at a Catholic Charities
luncheon that his so-called faith-based initiatives would advance the
anti-abortion rights cause.
The bad news keeps getting worse. U.S.
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor reportedly will retire at the
end of this term. While she is to the right of center O’Connor has been
the all-important fifth vote in many 5-to-4 decisions preserving legal
abortion. With the senate’s confirmation of John Ashcroft, the standard
for appointments has been lowered. So right-wing ideologues like Orrin
Hatch could be portrayed as moderate and then could more likely be
confirmed. The handwriting is on the wall. We are in for a very rough four
The Bush administration is committed to actions and
strategies that limit reproductive freedoms, such as eliminating
life-saving stem cell research, criminalizing abortion providers, reducing
availability of birth control and denying funding for sex education that
actually educates students about sex. And the attacks continue in Congress
as anti-abortion forces in the House have introduced a bill to limit the
availability of mifepristone (RU486).
We must redouble our efforts.
And we have to send a strong, clear message to every U.S. senator: We will
not roll over while Bush tries to roll back our rights! We will mount a
massive movement to save our rights and the rights of generations to come.
We will not cede the U.S. Supreme Court to religious political
The National Organization for Women has called for an
Emergency Action for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, April
22, to target the U.S. Senate to save our rights and to stop the packing
of the U.S. Supreme Court with anti-abortion rights nominees. We are
putting NOW’s members — and all abortion rights supporters — on red alert.
(See story front page.) We will bring women, men and children from across
the country to take action on the Capitol.
Democrats in the Senate
have a slim margin to sustain a filibuster. (Forty-one votes are required
to sustain a filibuster. Forty-two Democrats voted against Ashcroft.) We
need to shore-up the Democrats, and we need to pressure moderate
Republicans to ensure that the next U.S. Supreme Court justice supports
women’s rights, including legal abortion. It will take nothing short of a
national emergency action to save the Supreme Court. And women’s lives
hang in the balance.
Whether you have never marched on Washington
before, or have marched many times, we implore you to come to the nation’s
capital on Sunday, April 22, 2001. Bring your family and friends. Make the
sacrifice to be here to show the largest outpouring for women’s rights in
the new millennium.
The Emergency Action for Women’s Lives will
make history this spring. And if all of us stand together, we can change
the course of our future. Never before has so much been at stake. Never
before has your participation been so important.
As we face attacks
on our rights which may have seemed unthinkable just a few years ago, we
are reminded that feminists must continue to battle patriarchy’s
thousands-of-years-old legacy. Assessing the magnitude of the work which
lies ahead, it is easy to get discouraged. It’s hard not to feel
overwhelmed, to feel alone, to feel ineffective — especially given the
radical right-wing stranglehold on Congress, the White House and the U.S.
Whenever we feel discouraged, we can think back on
inspiring moments in our movement. Marching down Pennsylvania Avenue with
thousands of feminists — a crowd larger than the patriarchy is old — we
know we are not alone. We are part of a movement that is even greater and
more powerful than the sum of its parts. Remembering the faces and voices
of people from across the nation — and even around the world — we know
that all of us are up for the challenges we face.
Please come and
add your voice to the thousands who will come to the nation’s capital. As
Susan B. Anthony said in her last public utterance, “With women such as
these consecrating their lives, failure is impossible.” We will fight back
for women’s lives in the streets of Washington on April 22, 2001. Come
take your place in history.