Congress Poised to Strip Away Reproductive Rights

January 22, 1999 12:00 am

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Friday, January 22, 1999

WASHINGTON — On today’s 26th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the American Civil Liberties Union warned that Congress is poised to consider a number of proposals that would strip away the rights secured by the Supreme Court’s landmark decision that ended back-alley abortions.

The ACLU predicted that a variety of measures restricting women’s right to choose will be introduced in this Congress, including legislation that would ban so-called “partial-birth abortions” and legislation that would mandate that teenagers obtain parental consent before receiving contraceptive services.

“The debate surrounding reproductive freedom has been rife with distortions and misrepresentations,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office. “The over-simplified labels and slogans being bandied about by anti-choice forces attempt to obscure the real effects of their proposals for women’s health and equality.”

In a letter to members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, Murphy cautioned members of Congress to sift through the highly charged debate on reproductive freedom and determine the true impact of legislative proposals. Murphy cited the following measures as examples:

  • Legislation that would criminalize the transport of a young woman across state lines to obtain an abortion if she has not met the requirement of her state’s parental consent law has been touted as a means of encouraging teenagers to involve their parents in their abortion decision, despite the fact that most teens already do so, and that those who do not are often the victims of family violence and abuse. In reality, this legislation would isolate already vulnerable young women and threaten their health by denying them the assistance of trusted adults during a difficult time.
  • Legislation that would mandate that teenagers secure parental consent to obtain contraceptive services is often mischaracterized as a common-sense proposal to discourage teenage sexual activity, although its true effect would be to threaten the health of teens who are already sexually active by blocking their access to health services that could prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Legislation that would ban so-called “partial-birth abortion” has been presented as a prohibition on a single abortion procedure, but — as doctors have testified and courts across the country have found – it is so broadly written that its true effect would be to ban the safest and most common methods of abortion used from early in a pregnancy.

“This anniversary is a time to remember what it was like in our society before choice was a protected right and to increase our resolve to ensure that efforts to turn back the clock on reproductive rights do not succeed,” Murphy said. “We must preserve the right to choose; it is a matter of health and equality.”

The ACLU’s letter to Congress can be found at:

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