Chipping away at reproductive rights

By Julia Scott

Published February 11, 2005 8:16PM (EST)

In November 2004, the Detroit Free Press published a report about a 16 year-old girl in Macomb County, Michigan, who discovered that she was four months pregnant. Terrified of telling her parents, she had her boyfriend hit her in the stomach with a baseball bat every day for weeks until she miscarried.

It's scenarios like these that pro-choicers cite when arguing for safe, confidential access to abortion services, especially for minors. The Child Custody Protection Act, one of the top ten legislative priorities for Republicans in Congress this session, would put that goal further out of reach. It's not known how many underage girls cross state lines each year for an abortion in order to circumvent state parental notification laws, some with help from a caring adult they can trust. But the bill would make helping a minor across state borders a crime, punishable by a steep fine and/or up to a year in prison.

Teenagers obtain 19 percent of all abortions in the U.S., according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, and the majority do tell their parents about it. Someone who chooses not to, however, may have good reasons for it -- for instance, she may be a victim of rape or incest.

Previous versions of the bill have been passed by the House three times without reaching the Senate. This year is different, say observers -- the GOP leadership has placed it on their Top10 list of priority bills this session. "We're proceeding as if it's going to pass," an ACLU reproductive rights lawyer told the Associated Press .

Indeed, as the pro-choice movement takes stock of its core beliefs and strategies, and prepares to defend Roe v. Wade at the level of the Supreme Court, the next effort to chip away at women's reproductive rights is already underway.

Julia Scott

San Francisco-based freelance journalist Julia Scott writes about water and energy issues for various publications. She also covers the environment for Bay Area News Group, a chain of newspapers in Northern California.

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