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Bush's War on Women: New York Times Article 01/12/03
Letters to the Editor

Center for Reproductive Rights Letters to the Editor

April 14, 2003, Washington Times
License for Life?

April 7, 2003 The New Republic
Body Guard

June 30, 2002, New York Times
Aid for Afghan Women

June 10, 2002, USA Today
Roe v. Wade Survival is on Shaky Ground

June 4, 2002, Wall Street Journal
Abortion Opponents Invade Women's Privacy

May 28, 2002, Washington Post
Emergency Contraception

March 22, 2002, Wall Street Journal
Population Control and Women's Rights

February 24, 2002, New York Times
Abortion, Worldwide

February 18, 2002, Newsday
The Full Pro-Life Picture

January 23, 2002, New York Times
Abortions in Portugal

November 5, 2001, New York Times
Extremists at Home

August 6, 2001, New York Times
The Global Gag Rule

June 21, 2000, Chicago Tribune
Indian Women

June 14, 2000, Newsday
Lazio and Women's Health

May 8, 2000, New York Times
Women and Babies in Eastern Europe

April 17, 2000, New York Times,
Reproductive Justice Worldwide

February 16, 2000, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Proposed ban outlaws more than 'late-term' abortion

December 31, 1999, Wall Street Journal
Conservative Judges Also Enforce Their Views


The following letter by Nancy Northup, President of the Center, appeared in the Washington Times on April 14, 2003:

In his column, "No license for life" (Commentary, Wednesday), Chris Jolma, an editor for the Commentary pages of The Washington Times, not only derides those who support the First Amendment - the bedrock of our democracy - as "crybabies," but also implicitly endorses the idea that a state should be able to sell "pro-life" license plates to raise funds for organizations that lie to women making health-care decisions.

By barring funding for organizations that counsel on all options - including childbirth and abortion - these laws are intended to legitimize "crisis pregnancy centers," or CPCs, by providing them with government funding.

In telephone books and ads, CPCs promote themselves as women's health clinics that offer the full range of reproductive health services, from pregnancy testing to information on abortion. In reality, these organizations subject women to anti-choice propaganda, including information that has been discounted by medical groups and government agencies.

Some, for example, tell women that abortion increases their risk of breast cancer, which is a claim rejected by the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society. Others have been charged with misrepresenting the results of pregnancy tests in an effort to prevent women from obtaining abortions.

States should not be fundraising vehicles for organizations that mislead and scare women about their pregnancy options. Women deserve unbiased and accurate information when deciding whether to continue a pregnancy.


The following letter by Priscilla Smith, Director of the Domestic Legal Program at the Center, appeared in The New Republic on April 7, 2003:

Rosen misunderstands pregnancy, fetal development, and the campaign to ban so-called "partial-birth abortion"; misrepresents the significance of Justice Kennedy's dissent in Stenberg v. Carhart; and demonstrates a spectacular disregard for the suffering of individual women.

First, Rosen describes "partial-birth abortion" as a procedure performed in the third trimester. On this point, Rosen has swallowed anti-abortion advocates' spin hook, line, and sinker. In fact, the term was invented in 1995 out of whole cloth by anti-abortion advocates and is a political label, not a particular procedure; it has been defined in more than nine different ways in more than 30 federal and state statutes. While bill sponsors and President Bush alike imply that "partial-birth abortion" is a procedure that is performed after viability, no fewer than 50 federal and state court judges, appointed by Democrats and Republicans alike, including five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, say otherwise. These judges have recognized that "partial-birth abortion" is not a medical term and has been defined so broadly as to cover the safest and most common methods of abortion used, starting in the early second trimester, long before viability. The latest version of this abortion ban, currently pending in Congress, is no different.

Second, Rosen states that a majority of Americans agree that "late" abortions, defined by him as those taking place in the "second trimester," should be illegal, and he asserts that the second trimester is "when the fetus becomes viable." However, the second trimester is generally considered to run from the fourteenth week of pregnancy until the twenty-sixth week, and viability does not occur until the very end of the second trimester or the beginning of the third trimester, around 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. Moreover, the same poll cited by Rosen also indicates that the majority of Americans still think Roe was a good thing for the country and that abortions should be available when a woman's health is endangered, as well as in cases of fetal anomaly.

Third, Rosen is wrong when he claims "Roe is not hanging by a thread" and when he downplays the importance of Justice Kennedy's dissent in Carhart. The point on which Justice Kennedy dissented in that case, and the reason his opinion has caused such alarm among supporters of the right to choose abortion, was the Court's reaffirmation of a woman's right to obtain abortions in a way that preserves her health. Under Kennedy's reasoning, a state would be able to legislate the way in which the physician performs the abortion, without regard to the woman's health, and even if the legislation adds unnecessary risks.

Finally, Rosen's idea that it would be good for pro-choice Americans to subject to majority control the right of individual women to control their own bodies, to terminate their pregnancies, and to choose the safest procedure modern medicine has to offer at best reveals naivete about the power of those who believe women should be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term; and it reveals ignorance about the burden of pregnancy and childbirth. The fact is, whether it is twelve states that would ban abortions immediately upon reversal of Roe or "only" a few, as Rosen predicts, these bans would force thousands of individual women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term or to obtain illegal procedures at risk to life and health. Working to protect the rights of women to preserve the integrity of their bodies is not "extreme," as Rosen would have it; it is what the American tradition of liberty and self-determination is all about.


The following letter by Laura Katzive, legal advisor for global projects at the Center, appeared in the New York Times on June 30, 2002:

"In Afghanistan, Where Pregnancy Is Still a Minefield" (Women's Health section, June 23) highlights the effects of pervasive discrimination on women's lives and health. Declarations adopted at global conferences and by United Nations agencies have shown growing recognition that survival of pregnancy and childbirth is a matter of human rights.

It is tragic that the Taliban's history of discrimination is echoed in the aid policies of donor governments. International donors and the Afghan government should invest in women's reproductive health while recognizing women as equal partners in the political, economic and social life of Afghanistan.


The following letter by Priscilla Smith, acting director of Domestic Program at the Center, appeared in the USA Today on June 10, 2002:

I would sleep easier if I was as confident as USA Today about Roe v. Wadeís chances for survival (news article, June 4). But I canít be, not in the face of the U.S. Supreme Courtís decision in June, 2000, upholding by only one vote the right of a woman to undergo the abortion procedure recommended by her doctor.

Efforts to tip the scales against Roe are unrelenting, as foes execute their strategy to gain one more vote on the Supreme Court. President Bush - who has made clear that eliminating womenís right to choose would be a notch in his belt -- has gone on the record stating that his model justices are Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, two anti-choice stalwarts. Nor would todayís Senate necessarily protect us from an anti-choice Justice; after all, Justice Thomas was confirmed by a Democratic Senate.

Even after 30 years, anti-choice opponents, including those at the highest levels of the federal government, refuse to accept that women have the right to make private decisions about sex, birth control, and childbearing. But the right to make personal, moral decisions is a liberty and responsibility owed to future generations of American women.


The following letter by Center Staff Attorney Janet Crepps, appeared in the The Wall Street Journal on June 4, 2002:

"In the Shadows" (front page, May 28) succeeded in exposing just how far anti-choice zealots will go to humiliate, expose, and intimidate women who are simply exercising their right to seek confidential medical services.

As reported by the Journal, womenís right to keep their private life private is being violated by anti-abortion extremists with cameras. Why do these rogue photographers shoot pictures of women indiscriminately, regardless of whether they are seeking abortion services or simply going into a clinic for a gynecological exam or to pick out birth control? Because the truth is that all women are targets of their vengeful tactics intended to scare and strip women of their dignity, safety, and right to make private decisions about sex, birth control, and childbearing.

Itís unclear whether or not this picture-taking scheme is legal. But it does reveal the severe consequences for women and democratic society if anti-abortion ideologues, some of whom occupy seats of power at the highest levels in this nation, succeed in imposing their misogynist vision on America.


The following letter by Priscilla Smith, acting director of Domestic Program at the Center, appeared in the the Washington Poston May 28, 2002:

Your article on emergency contraception or EC, "Preparing for a Mistake" (Page HE01, May 21) incorrectly explained the difference between EC and RU-486. EC, also known as the "morning after pill," can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. In contrast, RU-486 terminates a pregnancy at an early stage.

RU-486, a medication used between 3 and 7 weeks of pregnancy, blocks hormones necessary to continue an already established pregnancy. EC, by contrast, is used within 72 hours of intercourse and works before the pregnancy is established, i.e., before implantation; if a woman is already pregnant, EC will not disrupt the pregnancy.

The Center for Reproductive Rights petitioned the FDA to make EC available over the counter on behalf of more than 60 medical groups in February, 2001, yet the FDA has failed to make any decision on the petition.

How much longer must women wait for easy access to a safe product that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists believes has the potential to reduce by half the 3 million unintended pregnancies occurring each year in the U.S.?


The following letter by Center for Reproductive Rights International Program Director, Anika Rahman, appeared in the Wall Street Journal on March 22, 2002:

Ben Wattenberg's assertions in "'Overpopulation' Turns Out to Be Overhyped" (editorial page, March 4) ignore women's rights, particularly reproductive rights. Nations experiencing a "birth dearth" - such as those in Eastern and Central Europe - have often sought to promote fertility by restricting women's access to abortion and family planning. While countries that regard themselves as undergoing a "population explosion" have encouraged women to access reproductive health care, it is in these nations, such as China, India and Brazil, where the most incidents of forced contraception have occurred. In addition, the worst maternal mortality rates in the world are to be found in many low- and middle-income nations that are seeking to limit the growth of their populations.

The real issue at stake is reproductive rights: the ability of women to control their lives and to make decisions regarding reproduction that are safest for them. Such rights are crucial to women's social equality, national economic development, and ultimately, our global future.


Luisa Cabal, Center Staff Attorney, wrote the following letter appearing in the New York Times on February 24, 2002:

To the Editor:

"Despite a Ban, Teaching Safe Abortions in Kenya" (news article, Feb. 17) illustrates the plight of the 78,000 girls and women who die after being forced to resort to unsafe abortions every year.

Despite President Bush's indefensible gag rule on the promotion of abortion law reform, international women's groups and providers around the world are continuing to promote changes to restrictive abortion laws, and to bring international attention to the issues of women's reproductive and sexual rights with creative legal strategies.

International mechanisms for the protection of human rights do exist and can promote recognition of abortion as a human right and a crucial component of comprehensive reproductive health care. There is hope that women turning to life-threatening abortions will no longer be an everyday reality.


The following letter by Priscilla Smith, Center acting domestic program director, appeared in Newsday on February 18, 2002:

In "Fetal Care Plan is Common Sense" [Viewpoints, Feb. 6], about the Child Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), Kathleen Gallagher makes two serious errors. She states that "six days prior to birth the lives of children can be legally terminated through late-term abortions." However, no state in this country, including New York, permits abortions during the third trimester unless the woman's life or health is at risk.

Gallagher also claims that the pro-choice mission is "pure abortion advocacy." Pro-choice politics encompass all safe, effective reproductive options, including prenatal care. In fact, pro-choice advocates have been working for years to increase access to prenatal care. This is illustrated by our support of bipartisan legislation currently pending in Congress (HR2010, S724), which would establish such coverage immediately - long before the administration's policy takes effect. These bills belie the administration's claim that defining women's fertilized eggs as human beings is necessary to preserve women's health.

Gallagher uses concern for children and women's health as a ploy to outlaw abortion, a well-worn tactic of the anti-abortion movement. Gallagher's opinion article has woven a trap, hoping to ensnare readers through manipulation, thereby avoiding common sense entirely.


The following letter by Christina Zampas, Center Staff Attorney, appeared in the New York Times on January 23, 2001.

To the Editor:

Portugal Gives Abortionist an 8 1/2-Year Prison Term" (news article, Jan. 19) illuminates the vulnerabilities that women face in a country where abortions are illegal.

Even when abortion is a crime, desperate women will continue to seek the service illegally, paying exorbitant fees and risking criminal liability or their lives.

Every day, more than 200 women around the world die from the consequences of unsafe abortions, according to the World Health Organization. Twenty million of the 50 million abortions performed around the world each year take place under unsafe and illegal conditions.

It is time for governments of the world to recognize that reproductive rights are fundamental human rights.


The following letter by Janet Benshoof appeared in the New York Times on November 5, 2001.

To the Editor:

Re "U.S. Groups Have Some Ties to Germ Warfare" (news article, Nov. 2):

One of the markers for terrorism is the repression of women's rights in the name of extreme ideology. Whether it's the Taliban denying women their most basic freedoms, or the Army of God and other fanatics in the United States bent on destroying women's right to abortion, alarming acts of violence can take hold. Though the circumstances are different, the sentiments are the same. And so must be our response.

At a time when more than 200 letters containing a powdery substance have been received by abortion providers, it is imperative that law enforcement increase its efforts to find those responsible for this organized, domestic terrorism. Once identified, they should be fully prosecuted under federal law.


The following letter by Janet Benshoof appeared in the New York Times on August 6, 2001:

To the Editor:

President Bush has chosen to violate yet another important treaty (front page, July 31), and in doing so affects not only other countries but also the free-speech rights of Americans.

Mr. Bush's global gag rule includes an unprecedented censorship of speech promoting abortion law reform. It does not apply to antiabortion speech. This gag is a direct contravention of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the United States in 1992, which explicitly protects freedom of expression and political advocacy regardless of frontiers.

The wide sweep of the Global Gag Rule on human rights advocates demonstrates the Bush administrationís willingness to sacrifice free speech for political ends. This undermines the commitment of the U.S. to promoting democratic values worldwide.

INDIAN WOMEN - Chicago Tribune letter

The following letter by Anika Rahman, Director of the International Program at the Center appeared in the Chicago Tribune on June 21, 2000:

"Sawraj Singh's June 15 letter fails to discuss a key issue--women's reproductive health and rights. Although there is no question that India's population has expanded, the real question is how to improve the quality of life of each person. In looking at the reality of lives, the truth is that it is often women, especially women of the Indian sub-continent, who do not enjoy equality, reproductive autonomy and health.

"In India, violence against women is rampant, maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world, most abortions are illegal and sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, are on the rise.

"Any answer to the problems of nations such as India must include measures to promote women's rights and to ensure their reproductive health."

LAZIO AND WOMEN'S HEALTH - Letter in Newsday

Center for Reproductive Rights President, Janet Benshoof, wrote the following letter that appeared in Newsday on June 14, 2000:

"It is not possible to support Roe vs. Wade while supporting bans on so-called "partial-birth abortion," as Rick Lazio claims to do "Lazio: I Support Roe vs. Wade," June 1. The ban is the latest attempt by antichoice legislators to overturn Roe and eliminate the right to choose abortion.

"The bans are extreme and deceptive measures that violate the essential principle of Roe that women's health must always prevail in any legislation affecting women's reproductive choices. Yet the ban Lazio supports covers the earliest abortions, does not protect a woman's health and makes only a limited exception to protect a woman's life.

""Partial-birth abortion" bans are not about "late-term" abortions, as Newsday incorrectly asserts. Courts around the country have found the criminal bans to be unconstitutional prohibitions on a wide range of abortion methods, regardless of how early in pregnancy they are performed.

"In the challenge to Nebraska's abortion ban, now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy asked the justices to affirm Roe's promise to every American woman. A woman's ability to make personal decisions about her health cannot be sacrificed to politically motivated attacks on the right to choose.

"By endorsing such abortion bans, Lazio has abandoned the commitment to women's health that no true pro-choice or pro-Roe candidate would ever compromise."

COVERAGE FOR CONTRACEPTIVES -Editorial in Detroit newspaper

In a June 7, 2000 commentary appearing in the Detroit Free Press, Center Staff Attorney Julie F. Kay wrote on limited insurance coverage of contraceptives. Excerpts of the article follow.

"Although almost all traditional fee-for-service plans now offer general prescription drug coverage, fewer than half fully cover prescription pregnancy preventionÖonly about a third of such plans fund oral contraceptives, according to a study by Alan Guttmacher Institute. Even though HMOs tend to provide better contraceptive coverage, only 39 percent of such plans cover all the major reversible methods."

"This failure of coverage is irrational and inconsistent." "What insurers know, and women have proven, is that when denied coverage, women will chose to absorb the cost of contraception themselves rather than risk an unplanned pregnancy."

"Twelve states currently mandate that insurance companies offer contraceptive coverage when providing prescription drug plans. These states have gotten it right. The time has come for the federal government to mandate that private insurers follow suit."


A letter to the editor by Center Staff Attorney, Mindy Roseman, appeared in the New York Times on May 8, 2000 in response to an article on the decline in Eastern and Central Europe's population.

To the Editor:

Political collapse and economic uncertainty after Communism's fall may have contributed to Eastern and Central Europe's population decline (news article, May 4). But the fear of "de-population" has caused the erosion of women's reproductive rights in the region.

The Hungarian Parliament is about to pass a restrictive abortion law, and the Russian Parliament has likewise been presented with legislation seriously restricting access to abortion. Across the region, employers discriminate against women of childbearing age because of a long, mandatory maternity leave. Domestic violence laws are nonexistent or poorly enforced.

Until Eastern and Central Europe begin to protect and promote their rights, women will continue to feel that these countries are not safe places to raise their children.


The following letter by Center staff attorney, Luisa Cabal, appeared in the New York Times on April 17, 2000.

To the Editor:

The story of a 14-year old Mexican girl who was denied a legal abortion after being raped (news article, April 10) is not a horrifying exception in Mexico and other Latin countries where machismo and the influence of the Roman Catholic Church distort the implementation of laws about women.

International women's groups-including the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, where I am a staff lawyer-are bringing attention to reproductive rights with creative legal strategies. Recently, three groups intervened on behalf of a 19-year old Peruvian woman who was raped by a clinic doctor. After the doctor was exonerated, they took the case to an international tribunal, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Peru acknowledged abuses and began revamping its health and judiciary systems.


In a letter to the editor, Janet Benshoof, President of the Center, responds to an editorial by the Seattle Post Intelligencer on February 16, 2000:

"We'd like to join you in that "easier breath" mentioned in your Jan. 23 editorial "Court should learn truth on intact D&E;," but there's a lot more work to do before women and families are assured the unwavering right to choose abortion. Even your supportive editorial unwittingly contained the distortions that are hobbling the issue.

"Your editorial makes it seem that the issue of "partial-birth abortion" and its ban is just about this one procedure, gruesomely described and allegedly performed in the last trimester of pregnancy. But that is the lie being portrayed throughout the country by those who are out to topple Roe vs. Wade and a woman's right to choose.

"There is no such medical term as "partial-birth abortion," nor does it refer to an actual medical procedure. It's a term manufactured by abortion opponents and bandied about as though it were legitimate. To further mire the truth, anti-abortion forces refer to this made-up concept as a "late-term" procedure. But if you read the actual wording of the bans, "late-term" is never mentioned: They would outlaw most abortion methods, at any time during pregnancy.

"What the Supreme Court will decide this summer in its review of the Nebraska case is whether Roe vs. Wade is still law. Nebraska argues to the contrary -- that women's health interests can be trumped by the state making an anti-abortion statement even early in pregnancy. The issue of restrictions on post-viability or of third-trimester abortions is not before the court, and was explicitly not addressed by the lower courts. Until everyone in this country understands that, we face the very real possibility that the right of every American to make personal medical decisions without government interference will be lost."


In response to an editorial by former appeals court judge Robert H. Bork, disapproving of the judicial activism of liberal judges while ignoring the same for conservative judges, Simon Heller, the Director of Litigation at the Center wrote the following letter to the editor that appeared in The Wall Street Journal on December 31, 1999.

"By identifying judicial activism solely as a tool of "liberal relativism," Robert Bork avoids addressing the damage wrought by activist conservative jurists who twist the Constitution and distort precedent to impose their moral judgments on Americans.

"Just last month, a bare majority of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, led by Judge Frank Easterbrook, took judicial activism to a new low in a decision upholding the "partial-birth abortion" bans of Illinois and Wisconsin as constitutional. Although the majority determined that the language of the bans would criminalize constitutionally protected abortions, it did not invalidate them. Instead, the court asserted a new moral interest in banning a "gruesome" medical procedure. Flouting legal precedents, the court rewrote the statutes to achieve a purpose explicitly rejected by the state legislatures. Judge Easterbrook took his activism one step further by creating a novel legal device intended to limit state enforcement within the range of his hypothetical construction.

"Chief Judge Richard Posner, an eminent conservative jurist, criticized this device in a strong dissent, writing that 'the court's decisionÖimplies a radical expansion of the power of the federal courts to superintend the enforcement of state statutes.' Such federal supervision of state laws is anathema both to democracy and to a restrained judicial philosophy.

"In its haste to uphold statues it believed represented good social policy, the Seventh Circuit simply ignored a quarter-century of Supreme Court precedent, starting with Roe v. Wade in 1973. Roe itself, of course, recognizes a woman's constitutional right to personal autonomy and bodily integrity, rights Framers of the Constitution held dear and which are pillars of Anglo-American jurisprudence with roots extending back to the Magna Carta.

"Perhaps Mr. Bork omitted Judge Easterbrook's constitutional contortions from his commentary because it resulted in a judgment against abortion rights that conforms to his moral beliefs. At bottom, Mr. Bork simply wants the judiciary to uphold his brand of morality, regardless of precedent."

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