On Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, ACLU Warns Against Complacency; Reproductive Rights Still Very Much At Risk

January 21, 2000 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — As the nation prepares to mark tomorrow’s 27th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that affirmed women’s constitutional right to abortion, the American Civil Liberties Union warned that the right to reproductive freedom is under serious and sustained attack.

“The only barrier protecting Americans from Congressional efforts to eliminate abortion rights has been the President’s veto pen,” said Kathryn Engustian, a Legislative Counsel for the ACLU’s Washington National Office. “That barrier could easily crumble if an anti-choice president is elected this fall.”

Since the Republicans, fueled by the anti-choice extreme religious right, took control of Congress in 1994, the movement to overturn Roe has been growing steadily. In the last five years, more than 120 votes have been taken in Congress on a dizzying array of measures that would severely restrict the right to abortion. Anti-choice forces have won almost 100 of these votes, the ACLU said.

The Senate voted on a measure last year that sought merely to reaffirm Roe and the principles of equality and freedom that the historic decision enshrined. Demonstrating the precarious state of the right to choose in today’s America, nearly half of the Senate voted against this resolution. In rejecting the measure, 47 Senators expressed their view that Roe should be overturned.

“It is difficult to overstate the impact the 2000 elections could have on Americans’ right to reproductive freedom,” Engustian continued. “The combination of an anti-choice president with a Congress led by an anti-choice majority could be devastating.”

The next president will no doubt have vacancies to fill on the Supreme Court. Two justices will turn 76 this year.

“An anti-choice president would almost surely reconfigure the court in a way that shifts it away from its current moderate posture to one that is dangerously anti-choice,” said Catherine Weiss, Director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “Then we would be at serious risk of losing the constitutional protection for the right to reproductive freedom that we secured 27 years ago.”

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