As a former daily reporter and columnist, I was quite used to having to pull and rewrite stories on tight deadlines because the situation had changed. An arrest had been made, a source had been located, new facts had appeared. I am old enough to have been a journalist, albeit a young college student, when newspapers were still put together in linotype: copy written on half sheets of cheap brown paper and metal characters used to prepare the final edition for print. It was a cumbersome process, and when changes were made in the hours before deadline, our cranky machine operators were known to swear mightily at whatever editor let them know to hold the presses.
These days of course, and for many years, we have composed on computers and it has been much easier to recompose our work and rework a piece that would be wrong if published the way it was originally submitted.
I thought about this today when I faced the task of tossing the blog I had put together a few days ago (at least in my head) about a letter that the UUWF had signed on to, along with the UUA and other progressive religious groups and women’s rights organizations, protesting the anticipated vote on of a bill in the House of Representatives that would ban almost all abortions after 20 weeks. Only a few exceptions would be allowed, including for pregnancies resulting from rape, but only if previously reported, and for minors 16 and under who are the victims of incest.
From my own years working in close proximity with Planned Parenthood clinics, I know that there are crucial medical and painful ethical reasons, with just a very small percentage of all abortions being performed well into the second trimester. This kind of legislation flies in the face of private decision-making on the part of a woman and her doctor. The choice to call a vote on the bill this past week seemed a political move made to please and placate anti-choice protestors gathered, as they always are, in Washington D.C. to mark the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide, by once again demanding its overturn.
Opponents of the bill, in addition to generally expressing disapproval of yet another attempt to chip away at safe and legal abortion, pointed out that only 35 percent of rapes and sexual assaults are ever reported to the police — thus depriving many women who were attacked and made pregnant from being able to terminate these pregnancies. And that the arbitrary maximum age for allowing incest victims an exception was just that: illogical and inexplicable.
In the hours before an anticipated House vote, the proposed legislation was pulled, partly due to the objections of some Republicans, including female members of Congress. In the immediate aftermath of this decision, pro-choice advocates celebrated the turn-around as an indication that perhaps some reason is being restored in the face of what one newspaper editorial is calling a perilous year ahead for reproductive justice, with no let-up at all in the attacks on individual childbearing decisions.
Among the bills already proposed in Congress is one that would deny federal funds for any group that provides abortions, with its main target yet again being Planned Parenthood.
Unfortunately, those of us who would like to be able to exhale instead of holding our collective breaths in anticipation of yet another salvo in the escalating war on women and girls had relaxed too soon. As the annual March for Life continued on the capitol mall, by a near party line vote, the House voted to permanently restrict federal funds for most abortion coverage (the so called Hyde amendment is currently part of the federal budget and voted on yearly.) It would also block tax credits for people and employers who purchase abortion coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Following the vote, President Obama reiterated his commitment to upholding reproductive choice, stating that the bill just passed in the House would intrude on women’s reproductive freedom and health care, and unnecessarily restricts the private insurance options that consumers have today.
The president deserves our thanks, while we, unfortunately, must remain more vigilant than ever in defense of hard won rights and even more sweeping reproductive justice in the future.