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Are women dry leaves on a windy day?
By Chaithanya Sohan

The day was April 25, 2004. 1,150,000 people marched in Washington D.C. to voice their opposition against the attacks on women's reproductive rights and health. Among the thousands of women and men supporting the cause was Carole Mehlman, a 68 year old woman from Tampa, Florida who flew all the way to Washington for the event. When asked why she was there, Ms. Mehlman was prompt to reply stating, "I just had to be here to fight for the next generation and the generation after that. We cannot let them take over our bodies, our health care, and our lives". Women's issues have always been in the limelight for ages forging women to fight for their rights. Lately, the newest threat to women came in the form of George W. Bush being sworn in as the President of the United States of America. Bush was always known for his anti-women policies and laws, but on April 1, 2004 he signed the "Unborn Victims Violence Act". The act gave embryos and fetuses the same legal rights as a person, and further undermined a women's right to have an abortion. Women all over America protested against this law which gave the legislature power over their bodies and health. The law was viewed with contempt because women who were the care givers to these children they bore had no right to decide if they wanted to bring the baby into the world or not. The law strengthened the power of an embryo and undermined the position of a mother in the society. As a young woman in this country, the only question in my mind was 'why': why target the only choice women have to make? Why does this male dominated society want to challenge and control the ultimate dream every woman fosters in her- motherhood?

From the time Bush came into power, he has used women's rights as a 'political bargaining tool'. The Bush administration has had so many controversies since they came to power that women's issues have always been overlooked. Some of the rather disturbing policies of the Bush administration regarding women are as follows:

  • The President closes the White House Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach. (March 29, 2001)
  • The President withholds $34 million in funding for birth control, maternal and child care and HIV/AIDS prevention from the United States Population Funds (USFPA). (July 22,2002)
  • House passes abortion ban legislation H.R.4965.(July 24,2002)
  • The Presidents FY 2004 budget fails family planning programs and denies women access to abortion services.(February 3, 2003)
  • Congress passes S.3, dangerous ban on abortion, endangering women's lives for political gain. (October 22, 2003)
  • The President signs abortion ban, the first federal legislation since Roe vs. Wade to criminalize abortion, imperiling the women's health (November 5, 2003)

In 2003 alone, 558 anti-abortion/contraceptive measures were considered and 45 of them were implemented. Abortion was made legal in 1973 by the Supreme Court decision known as Roe vs. Wade. Through these new decrees against women, the Bush administration seems to be forcing women back to 1973, 30 years down the lane when women had no power, political or social. Today women have to fight for their rights against their dreams of motherhood, against the very embryo or fetus they are carrying. Bush seems to be concerned more about the embryo than the very human being who is responsible for keeping it alive.

Bush administration officials had voiced against an agreement at the 1994 UN at Cairo which demands controlling the population growth. From his acts it becomes rather evident that Bush is not concerned about population growth and the health of the women carrying these babies. According to the President of the National Organization for Women, Kim Gandy:

"Hundreds of millions of women around the world do not have adequate access to reproductive health services. If the Bush administration truly cared about women's health, it would join the global community in supporting the Cairo agreement."

Abortion is one of the many factors affecting the life of a woman. As the foundation of this society, women ought to be given the rights they have been fighting for. If slavery was an important phase in American history, every page of those history books talks about another kind of oppression- slavery of women, and has always been overlooked. Being the leader of the free nation, Bush ought to think beyond those walls of gender to acknowledge the fact that America is the country it is today because of the women she has fostered.

Abortion is beyond a legal right to women, it is a necessity. One of the rather horrendous faces to illegal abortion was a story by a mother who accompanied her 15 year old daughter to an abortion clinic. She recalls being 15 and pregnant but her story was different than her daughter's. She went through the illegal process of abortion and was raped and abused by the person who was performing the abortion in his garage. She explains the reason why abortion ought to be legal by saying the following:

"If abortion is made illegal again women will be reduced to the horrific procedure I had done. By allowing women control over termination, pregnancies can be aborted safely, legally, and in significantly more humane settings".

Every woman in America would have a similar story to tell if abortion is made illegal. Whether legal or illegal, it is a rather necessary procedure in today's world and if made illegal, women would have to do it in a rather life threatening way. Abortion is not a pleasurable procedure for women; it is often performed because of the circumstances, either due to health reasons or the fact that the person is not capable to raise a baby.

Like a dry leaf being blown by the strong wind, women are forced to fly in the direction of the Bush verdict. Women have been playing a very integral part in the foundation of the world and I think she ought to have some rights of her own. Speaking as a woman, we would love to have the rights to live as a human being without having the government decide every aspect of our lives. Women have treaded many perilous paths to achieve the freedom they have today. They have accepted many challenges to become the modern women of today and they are not going to let some Bush administration weaken them. If Bush wants to take women back to the 1970's, he better pray they are just as innocent as they were then because women today are prepared for anything- they are like those rocks that are weathered to any kind of wind.

  1. "The War on Women: A Pernicious Web", Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
  2. Mimi Hall. "For Bush, Abortion is not a priority", USA Today. April 20, 2001.
  3. "U.N. Population Conference Rejects Bush Administration's Anti- Abortion Stance", National Organization for Women. December 20, 2002.
  4. "Bush Administration's International Family Planning Cut Will Put Millions at Risk". Centre for Reproductive Rights. July 22, 2002.
  5. Caroline Y. "Caroline's story: 30years and 2 worlds apart". Feminist Women's Health Centre.

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