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Copyright 1999 Star Tribune  
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

July 8, 1999, Thursday, Metro Edition


LENGTH: 743 words

HEADLINE: A GOP president from this crop could turn the court on abortion

SOURCE: San Francisco Examiner

BYLINE: Stephanie Salter

DATELINE: San Francisco, Calif.

So far as you can see down the line of Republican candidates for president, you find no one willing to trust women with their own reproductive systems.

    Not Mr. Compassionate Conservative Moneybags, George W. Bush.

    Not the Vietnam War hero, John McCain. Not the great female hope, Elizabeth Dole. Not Steve Forbes. Not Dan Quayle. Not Orrin Hatch. Not John Kasich. And certainly not Pat Buchanan.     Every person who has even an outside chance at the GOP nomination _ and thus a shot at the White House _ is antichoice.

    When the issue is women's wombs, ovaries and fallopian tubes, GOP contenders want more government involvement, not less _ as much as that goes against traditional Republican values.

    Big deal, right? The abortion plank is always one of the best-polished in the Republican platform. So what else is new?

    Nothing, except that this country is only a single Supreme Court vote from overturning Roe vs. Wade. That action would not eliminate abortion in the United States; nothing ever has and nothing except foolproof, thoroughly accessible birth control ever could. But a 5-4 vote to overturn Roe would make abortion what it was before 1973: unsafe and a felony.

    Presidents appoint Supreme Court justices.

    They also have the power to veto congressional legislation that does not have a two-thirds majority capable of an override.

    Say what one will about President Clinton caving in on any number of campaign promises, he has kept his promise to women that he will try to keep the federal government out of their uteruses and allow them to decide if, when and how often they bear children.

    Twice, when the Republican-controlled Congress passed specific legislation that would have limited the ever-shrinking reproductive rights of females in the United States, Clinton exercised his veto. Overrides have passed in the House but failed in the Senate by a handful of votes.

    Put Bush, Dole or McCain in the White House, and American women will be a step closer to their sisters in the Third World, where biology is still destiny and XX chromosomes ensure second-class citizenship.

    One in four existing (not "pre-born") children in this wealthy nation lives below the poverty line, and one in three has no health insurance. But the Republican-dominated Congress has busied itself for the last five years with antiabortion legislation: 102 pieces between 1994 and 1998. Almost all the prohibitions were tacked onto sweeping funding acts that defied presidential veto. All but 15 passed.

    Perhaps the meanest, most immoral and anti-American of these was the work of a man who described a seven-year extramarital affair that he conducted in his mid-40s as "a youthful indiscretion" _ family values champion Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill.

    Tacked onto an omnibus appropriations act, the Hyde Amendment showed low- and no-income women that two very real sets of laws exist in the USA: one for the rich and middle-class, another for the poor. Although abortion is still legal, the Hyde Amendment banned federal funding of it for poor women, effectively denying them access to abortion.

    (Compassionate conservative that Hyde is, his rider does exempt poor women who were impregnated through rape or incest or whose pregnancies likely will kill them.)

    Although the nation's foster care system is as overcrowded as its prisons, the Republican-controlled Congress has concerned itself far more with limiting fetal tissue research and access to birth control than with caring for children who already walk, talk and breathe.

    In one of the few congressional victories for prochoice advocates _ "victory" meaning ground was not lost _ the House failed by 24 votes to destroy New York Democrat Nita Lowey's plan to require the insurance plans of federal employees to cover contraceptive drugs and devices.

    No fewer than 198 members of the House tried to neutralize the coverage by reclassifying some of the most common contraceptives as "abortifacients," or agents of abortion.

    So, yes, as the Republican presidential candidates continue their swings through Iowa, New Hampshire and California, nothing's new under the Big Tent. It's antichoice business as usual: Every American woman's right to privacy and reproductive freedom is still in the GOP cross hairs.


_ Stephanie Salter is a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner.


LOAD-DATE: July 10, 1999

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