Today we celebrate the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which recognized a woman’s constitutional right to legal abortion. However, we recognize that in 2010 women’s ability to exercise this basic right is under attack as never before, not only by domestic terrorism but also in the halls of Congress. Just last summer, Wichita physician Dr. George Tiller was murdered as he attended church services, and today his admitted killer is being allowed to make the novel argument that his heinous act was not murder because he was driven by religious zeal. In Washington, after months of debate over health care reform, we find ourselves wondering whether the leadership in Congress and the president we worked so hard to elect in 2008 will ultimately stand up to the Catholic Bishops and other extremists bent on dismantling Roe and reject their demands for sweeping anti-abortion provisions in the reform bill. More than ever, we must fight for women’s fundamental human right to have access to safe and legal abortion.
The names Bart Stupak and Joe Pitts will forever be infamous for their closed-door collusion with the Catholic Bishops to push through an amendment to the House health care reform bill that would effectively choke off all private as well as public insurance coverage for abortion care. If enacted, this provision would deprive tens of millions of women of health insurance they currently have, as nearly 90 percent of today’s private health insurance policies cover abortion. NOW and its allies beat back an attempt to put a nearly identical provision into the Senate health reform bill, only to see a so-called “compromise” inserted at the insistence of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). The Nelson language is better termed a capitulation, as it produces the same end result as Stupak-Pitts.
To those who tell us we should be willing to give up abortion rights in order to get other health care reforms, we respond with a resounding NO. We will not trade off the rights and needs of some women for the benefit of others. What kind of government has the temerity to even suggest that women do so?
On this anniversary, we mourn the beloved Dr. Tiller, who for 33 years courageously defended women’s constitutional right to access safe abortion care. And we express our profound gratitude to other abortion providers, like Dr. LeRoy Carhart, who has vowed to honor Dr. Tiller’s legacy by expanding the services available to women in his own practice and opening another clinic that will treat women in need of late-term abortions. NOW’s leaders and activists around the country will continue to support that mission.
Abortion has once again taken center stage in the current volatile political landscape. This year we pledge to fiercely resist every effort to negotiate, manipulate or hold up for sale our reproductive rights. Neither the bullying of the Catholic Bishops nor the threats of domestic terrorism will force us to turn back. As Dr. Tiller said, “Abortion is about women’s hopes and dreams. Abortion is a matter of survival for women.” Safe, legal and accessible abortion is a basic human right of every woman in this country. We claim it, and we will never give it up.