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On the 33rd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade Tell Congress to Protect Women's Lives

Document Date: January 20, 2006

FEATURES
33rd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade
New Year’s Resolution 2006: Help Save Reproductive Freedom
ACLU Announces Opposition to Alito Nomination
Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood
Timeline of Important Reproductive Rights CasesNEWS
High Court Ruling Respects Protections to Women’s Health (1/18/2006)
Supreme Court Urged to Protect Women’s Health (11/30/2005)

TAKE ACTION: Tell Your Senators to Oppose AlitoOn the 33rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion, Congress stands ready to roll back the reproductive freedoms Roe established even further. With anti-choice forces controlling the White House, the House, and the Senate, we can expect Congress to continue to pursue its broad anti-choice agenda to restrict access not only to abortion services but to other basic reproductive health care.

With significant changes to the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, well underway, we may not be able to rely on the courts as we have in the past to protect women’s reproductive rights. We must therefore redouble our resolve to block dangerous anti-choice measures before they become law and to support legislation that protects women’s health and rights.

The following overview looks at some of the measures we anticipate facing in 2006 and provides links to action items so you can voice your opposition to extreme measures and show your support for efforts that ensure women’s health and reproductive freedom.

KEEP TEENAGERS SAFE
In 2005, the House of Representatives passed the Teen Endangerment Act, called by its sponsors the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act. This year, the Senate will likely take up its own version of the bill. The Teen Endangerment Act would criminalize grandmothers, aunts, or siblings who help a teen cross certain state lines for an abortion unless the teen has already fulfilled the requirements of her home state’s law restricting teens’ abortions. The bill callously fails to include an exception to protect a teen’s health. Moreover, the version already passed by the House would also impose a federal requirement that teens notify a parent before obtaining an abortion without ensuring that all teens who cannot tell a parent have the option of going to court.

We know that in most cases a parent is involved in a teenager’s decision to have an abortion. The Teen Endangerment Act serves no other purpose than to put our most scared and vulnerable teens at risk.

If the Senate passes the Teen Endangerment Act this year, the House and Senate versions will have to be reconciled; final passage of the Act would then be likely by the end of the session.

Get more information and to find out how you can help >>

OPPOSE ATTEMPTS TO BLOCK ACCESS TO THE EARLY-ABORTION PILL
In September 2000, after more than a decade of careful study, the Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone, also known as RU-486, as a safe and effective early-option abortion pill. The approval of this drug represented a significant breakthrough in reproductive health care for American women. It provides women access to a safe, private and early option for ending an unintended pregnancy. More than 535,000 U.S. women have now used mifepristone. Mifepristone currently accounts for almost one fifth of eligible abortions, meaning abortions that take place in the first nine weeks of pregnancy.

Mifepristone is threatened, however, by anti-choice extremists who have introduced legislation – the RU-486 Suspension and Review Act of 2005 (HR 1079/S. 511) – that would remove the drug from the market for at least six months and maybe forever. This proposal is based on unfounded assertions that the drug is dangerous and that FDA failed to follow its own regulations when it approved the drug. The FDA, not Congress, should regulate drug safety.

Help protect women’s access to this important drug >>

SUPPORT RESPONSIBLE SEXUALITY EDUCATION
In 2005, Congress once again increased funding for dangerous and misleading abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education programs. These programs focus exclusively on abstinence; censor other information that can help young people make responsible, healthy, and safe decisions about sexual activity; discriminate against gay and lesbian students; and all too often impermissibly use public dollars to promote religion. Mounting evidence reveals that abstinence-only programs are ineffective. Regardless, in 2006, Congress will again likely consider increasing funding of these programs.

In addition to encouraging your elected representatives to halt the use of federal tax dollars for these unproven and dangerous programs, you can voice support for commonsense measures that would ensure that government-funded sex education features accurate and comprehensive information:

  • In the upcoming session, pro-choice lawmakers will likely introduce an amendment that would require federally funded abstinence-only programs to provide only medically accurate information. Urge your elected representatives to support this important and reasonable amendment.
  • The Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act would be the first federal program to fund comprehensive sexuality education. The bill would require federally funded programs to teach age-appropriate and medically accurate information that is free from religion. Abstinence would be taught as the only sure way to avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections; however, programs would be required to include information on how to prevent pregnancy and infection using contraceptives. Funding for REAL would match federal dollars currently earmarked for abstinence-only-until-marriage education. To date, the leadership of Congress has been unwilling to consider this important measure – despite overwhelming public support for comprehensive sex education.

Let your represntatives know how you feel >>

PROTECT OUR MILITARY WOMEN’S HEALTH NEEDS
Current law prohibits women from obtaining abortions at U.S. military hospitals, even if they pay for these services with their own private funds. This restriction poses grave health risks, particularly for military women and dependents stationed overseas. For example, many women are now stationed in countries where abortion is not available.

In 2006, Congress will take up the Department of Defense Authorization Bill. Possible amendments to this bill would repeal this restriction and would protect the health of our servicewomen. Our military women deserve no less.

Tell your representatives you support an amendment repealing the ban on privately funded abortions >>

SUPPORT THE PREVENTION FIRST ACT
The Prevention First Act aims to prevent unintended pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. It calls for an increase in the funding of the national family planning program, Title X; requires private health care plans to provide the same level of coverage for prescription contraception that they do for other prescription drugs and services; promotes awareness, understanding, and availability of emergency contraception through funding of public education initiatives; and provides for compassionate assistance for sexual assault survivors by requiring that hospitals receiving federal funding inform women about, and provide access to, emergency contraception.

The Prevention First Act addresses the basic health care needs of all women – including low-income women, teens, and sexual assault survivors. To date, the leadership of Congress has been unwilling to consider this important measure.

Write to your elected representative urging passage of this bill >>

ENSURE SEXUAL ASSAULT SURVIVORS RECEIVE VITAL HEALTH INFORMATION AND TREATMENT
In its first-ever national guidelines for treating sexual assault victims, the Department of Justice failed to include any information about emergency contraception and the importance of routinely providing it to sexual assault victims.

Emergency contraception, often referred to as “the morning after pill,” reduces the risk of pregnancy by as much as 89 percent if the first dose is taken within days of unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure, but is more effective the sooner it is taken. Research shows that if emergency facilities routinely provide emergency contraception to rape victims, up to 22,000 of the 25,000 pregnancies that result from rape each year could be prevented.

The 130-page guidelines issued by the Justice Department provide step-by-step medical recommendations for treating sexual assault patients. Yet nowhere do the guidelines mention emergency contraception. Nor do they make clear that sexual assault victims have a right to be offered this basic care.

It is essential that emergency facilities routinely provide sexual assault survivors with information about and access to emergency contraception.

Insist that assault victims have access to emergency contraception information >>

BECOME A REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM FIGHTER
Help us protect your right to reproductive freedom throughout the coming year. Receive regular updates on federal legislation and become part of the ACLU Action Network.

Sign up for the ACLU’s Action List >>

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.