On the 29th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, women’s right leaders celebrated reproductive choice, but expressed grave concern over the fate of abortion access in the U.S. The Core Choice Coalition, including the Feminist Majority, Planned Parenthood, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, National Women’s Law Center, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, National Organization for Women, National Abortion Federation, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, Black Women’s Health Project, and more, highlighted the impending threat to Roe in the federal Courts of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Roe is more endangered today than it ever has been in its 29-year history,” said Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal. “The fate of abortion rights for the next 25 years hinges not only on the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominated by President Bush, but also on his appointees to the federal Courts of Appeals. With Justices expected to step down in the near future, we insist that the U.S. Senate filibuster any federal judicial nominations that stand opposed to abortion rights.”
Abortion rights currently hang by a razor thin 5-4 split in the U.S. Supreme Court. The federal Courts of Appeals are not much better. Eight out of twelve Circuit Courts have anti-choice majorities. “If we should lose the majority on all of the federal Circuit Court of Appeals, the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court is almost a moot point,” said Smeal. Disagreement between the Circuit Courts is often the reason for a case to be appealed to the Supreme Court.
President Bush is an ardent anti-choice supporter. During his term as President, he has reinstated the global gag rule, held up international family planning funds to the UNFPA, and facing the anniversary of Roe, declared Sunday “National Sanctity of Life Day.” Though the President asked the nation to “reflect upon the sanctity of human life,” and “the notion that some lives are less worthy of protection than others,” he possibly failed to reflect on the more than 80,000 women who die annually from botched, illegal abortion worldwide.