Sunday, May 02, 2010

stand down if you don't have ovaries

NYTimes | While we’ve been distracted by Tea Party antics, the government’s efforts to sack Goldman Sachs and the tawdry drama of John Edwards and his baby’s mama, a rash of states has rushed to restrict access to abortion.

Two weeks ago, the governor of Nebraska signed a law that banned most abortions after 20 weeks on the theory that that’s when the fetus can feel pain. But as Caitlin Borgmann, a City University of New York law professor, wrote in The Los Angeles Times, “There is nothing approaching a scientific consensus on fetal pain at 20 weeks’ gestation.”

On Wednesday, Mississippi’s Legislature sent a bill to the governor that forbids public financing of abortions. The prohibition stands even in cases of severe birth defects.

Tuesday, the Oklahoma Legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto to pass two abortion laws. One requires women, even those seeking to end a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, to have an ultrasound and have the fetus described to them. The other prevents mothers from suing doctors who withhold information about fetal birth defects.

And on Friday, the Florida Legislature passed a bill also requiring all women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound. Even if the women don’t want to see the image, the doctor must still describe it to them.

It is a striking series of laws, enacted mostly by men, that seek legal control over women’s bodies. I happen to agree with Representative Janet Long of Florida, who said on Friday that you should “stand down if you don’t have ovaries.”

Proponents hope that some of these measures will force the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade. Unfortunately, public opinion is inching in their direction. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Friday found that the percentage of people who think that the Supreme Court is too liberal is at its highest since they began asking the question, as is the percentage of people who say that if Roe v. Wade were to come before the court again, the next justice should vote to overturn it. They’re not the majority, but it’s still not good.

It might be tempting to think of this as a temporary blip — a conservative swing during tough times, but that would be shortsighted. There is a long-range trend of public opposition coming from unexpected quarters.

According to a Gallup report released on Wednesday, the percentage of college-educated people who favor legal abortion under any circumstances has been dropping since the early 1990s and has now reached a new low. And while the largest overall drop was among men over 65, it was closely followed by a drop among women under 30.

This shifting landscape is ripe for a row over Roe. It’s coming. With luck, President Obama will nominate a warrior to the court. Preferably one who also agrees with Representative Long.