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There's a reason that "choice' is a right in America

Two whole weeks of an invigorating, relaxing vacation brought me back clear-eyed, full of strength and hope, to gaze anew upon our current political scene. Good grief, what a disgusting sight. Oh, well. Let's tackle the sucker piece by piece.

The priority for women right now is a package of bills said to "chip away" at a woman's right to choose whether or not to bear a child. Chip away?! Hell, they're more like a whack with a wrecking ball.

The anti-choice movement is on a roll. (The reason I refuse to call these people "pro-life" is because so many of them aren't. Hitler, for example, was virulently opposed to abortion, but he wasn't what you could call pro-life. The "pro-life" movement, while not responsible for the crazies it attracts, has nevertheless produced murderers, arsonists and bombers.) They knocked off the nomination of Dr. Henry Foster for surgeon general on the grounds that he performed 39 abortions in the course of a 38-year medical career during which he helped deliver thousands of babies. This is a man who, on his own, started a successful program to reduce teenage pregnancies and who impressed many during his Senate confirmation hearing as a decent man of ability and wisdom.

This is the man whom the Christian right labeled a "condom king," a "ghoul" and a man with "blood on his hands."

Foster was denied public office because the Republican Party is in thrall to the anti-choice movement. The scramble of Sens. Bob Dole, Phil Gramm, etc., for the support of the Christian Coalition so they can win the Republican nomination was the immediate cause of Foster's rejection.

The larger political reality is that the Republicans have sold out to the Christian right, which fact presents pro-choice Republican women with a particularly painful dilemma. I don't know how they will resolve it, but at least they can help in the current crisis of the bills before Congress.

By now it's a truism that an entire generation of women has come to adulthood with no notion of what it was like before the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973. Those of us who do remember owe it to our daughters to see that they never have to find out.

By now our arguments are familiar, our stances are hardened and common ground is the hardest thing to find in the abortion debate. I think there are only two points worth re-emphasizing. The first is that Roe vs. Wade did not legalize "abortion on demand." It is a complex decision that allows states to set increasingly tougher standards for abortion in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. The anti-choice movement consistently ignores or misrepresents the different trimester standards. Besides, no woman six months pregnant ever waddled past an abortion clinic and said, "Oh, darn. I knew there was something I've been meaning to do. I think I'll get that abortion today." Please. Women are moral, sentient human beings. This issue is difficult enough without insulting the women who have to make excruciating choices.

The second point is that the real issue in the abortion debate is "Who decides?" A government that has the power to decide that a woman cannot have an abortion also can decide to force her to have an abortion. It simply is the reverse of the current policy in China. The measures due to be debated by the House constitute a broad and concerted drive to reverse abortion rights. They include overturning new requirements by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education that all obstetrics-gynecology residency training programs offer abortion training (any student who is morally opposed to abortion is exempted). On Thursday, the House voted 230-196 to bar abortions in military hospitals, as though female soldiers and military wives had no rights under the Constitution. Another proposal would outlaw a procedure used in late-pregnancy abortions to save the life of the mother. The procedure accounts for 0.04 percent of all abortions performed after 24 weeks, and this proposal would institute criminal charges against any doctor who used it.

We have heard a great deal lately about "angry white men" in America. It is high time that our representatives in Washington heard from some angry women. We have a responsibility to our daughters, our nieces and our granddaughters.

Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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