COLUMN: Women are not second-class citizens

Erin Roof

“To overturn a constitutional decision that secured a fundamental personal liberty to millions of persons would be unprecedented in our 200 years of constitutional history.”

– Former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun on overturning Roe V. Wade.

Each side of the abortion debate has myriad reasons why it believes its view is correct. Pro-choice heralds women’s freedom to make their own decisions and to have control over their reproductive rights. Anti-choice regards protection of fetuses above women’s rights and wants to protect fetuses from undue “cruelty.” (This notion, however, has been scientifically shot down in a recent report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that says fetuses are incapable of feeling pain until the third trimester, when abortion procedures are rare.)

The members of the conservative Right to Life movement are making a vicious attempt to restrict abortion and ultimately overturn Roe V. Wade. With the death of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist on Sept. 4 opening up a second vacancy on the court, their dream has never seemed more attainable.

Each faction must realize that, legal or illegal, women will continue to have abortions. Before Roe went into effect, it is estimated 1.2 million women annually underwent illegal abortions, resulting in 5,000 deaths a year (NARAL Pro-Choice America). If the Supreme Court overturns Roe the number of women seeking and dying from hazardous “back alley” abortions will increase. This is why, despite one’s opinion of abortion, its legality must be upheld to protect women’s lives and health.

However, it is likely millions more women will bare the same risk if Congress allows President Bush free reign and easily OKs his Supreme Court nominees. The two most conservative members of the court are already on record in Stenberg v. Carhart as favoring Roe‘s reversal. Two more justices sharing Bush’s agenda could easily capture an anti-abortion majority.

“The bottom line is that a slight change in the composition of the Court could tip the balance toward an anti-abortion majority and doom the core holding of Roe,” Erica Smock said in the Center for Reproductive Rights report, “What if Roe fell?” She said overruling Roe would cause “the first wholesale elimination of a constitutional right in U.S. history.”

This is why Congress should block John Roberts, Bush’s nominee to Supreme Court chief justice. Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America says Roberts succession would be detrimental to women.

“We oppose Roberts’ nomination because of his record of opposition to fundamental freedoms, including a woman’s right to choose,” she said. “Roberts co-wrote a legal brief that said ‘Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled,’ and dismissed a fundamental liberty as the ‘so-called ‘right to privacy.””

If Roberts becomes the new chief justice and Roe is overturned, it is likely states will be given the power to ban or uphold abortion rights. Given the anti-choice stance of Ohio’s current governor and legislature and the state’s history of restricting abortions, Ohio will probably move to ban abortion.

Overturning Roe would effectively make women second class citizens in the United States by destroying their right to have control over their reproductive system, health, lives and futures. This is the underlying goal of the Right to Life movement, President Bush and his Chief Justice nominee John Roberts. I urge Congress to protect Roe and all women by blocking Roberts.

Erin Roof is a junior magazine journalism major and a point/counterpoint columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].