With the installation of an anti-abortion president, women’s rights and reproductive rights groups are gearing up for what could be the most important fight for women’s rights in several decades. In a vigilant effort Save Roe v. Wade, feminists are leading a push to build will among the pro-choice Senators to block the appointment of any U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee who refuses to support Roe. Currently, a weakened Roe is being sustained by only a 5-4 margin.
“We will not be the generation who both won and lost Roe v. Wade,” Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Never has the right to safe, legal abortion been in greater jeopardy.”
The Feminist Majority is joining with the National Organization for Women in calling for an Emergency Action for Women’s Lives on Sunday, April 22 in Washington, D.C. The action will follow two weeks of in-state lobbying April 7-22, when most Senators return to their home offices during the Senate’s spring break.
The Feminist Majority Campus Leadership Program will mobilize activists at hundreds of public, private, and community college campuses nationwide in a student campaign for the April 22nd emergency action and for the battles ahead to save Roe. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, the National Black Women’s Health Project, and others abortion rights and reproductive rights will participate in the emergency action as well.
Most experts agree that President Bush will most likely have the opportunity to make as many as two or three appointments to the Supreme Court — with one to two Justices expected to step down as early as this summer. George W. Bush has hailed Justices Scalia and Thomas – the two most ardent anti-choice votes on the Court – as his “model Justices.” Both Scalia and Thomas have been outspoken about their goal to see Roe v. Wade reversed.
For the first time since Roe v. Wade was decided, the President as well as the majorities of both houses of Congress are anti-choice. However, with a 50-50 Senate divided along party lines, pro-choice forces have the ability to win 41 votes to sustain a filibuster to block a Supreme Court nomination. Thirty seven senators are staunchly pro-choice, and 17 Senators have mixed voting records on abortion.
The Feminist Majority has launched a letter-writing, petition, and e-mail campaign to urge Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) as the Senate Democratic Leader and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as Ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee to lead the fight against any Supreme Court nominee who refuses to uphold Roe.
The appointment of even one more anti-abortion justice could easily make a difference between whether or not Roe remains the law of the land. The last Supreme Court decision on abortion (Stenberg v. Carhart) was a razor-thin 5-4 decision declaring unconstitutional an abortion procedure ban. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the fifth vote sustaining a weakened Roe, is one of the justices most likely to retire.
“A Supreme Court, which was willing to cast the deciding vote in the presidential election by a slim 5-4 margin, would not hesitate to reverse legal abortion, the law of the land since 1973, by the same slim 5-4 margin,” said Smeal.
Legal scholars also point out that if Roe is reversed, the fundamental right to privacy – upon which the Court’s 1973 decision legalizing abortion was based – is in jeopardy. Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized birth control for married persons, and Eisenstadt v. Baird, which legalized birth control for single persons, also were based on the right to privacy and could hang in the balance.
To join the Save Roe Campaign and learn more about the Emergency Action for Women’s Lives visit www.feminist.org.