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The Right to Choose No. 132

Adopted 1994
Amended 1995
Amended 1996
Amended 1997
Reaffirmed 1998
Amended 2001
Amended 2003
Amended 2004

ADA reaffirms its support of the Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court and considers it the right of a woman to determine when and whether to bear a child. The Court's support for the right to an abortion as an extension of the right to privacy was logical and appropriate. We deplore efforts to reverse and undermine the decision, whether by court appointments, through a Constitutional amendment, or legislation. ADA strongly opposes any measures to limit further the availability of late-term abortions. The decision to have this tragic but necessary procedure must remain between a woman and her physician or clinic.

ADA also affirms that the right to choose includes the right to bear and raise children. ADA therefore opposes efforts to restrict or punish childbearing, including family cap welfare policies directed against poor women and initiatives to pressure poor women to use Norplant and other contraceptives. ADA therefore also opposes efforts to speed the termination of poor mothers' parental rights. ADA seeks policies that support the choice to bear children by supporting children's family caregivers.

We believe that these rights must be applied to all Americans, without a means test and without prejudice. Thus, we support the inclusion of abortion in publicly-supported medical programs and oppose efforts to skew the choices available to low-income women and others who depend upon federal health care or insurance programs. The Hyde Amendment restricting the use of Federal Medicaid funds to pay for abortions should be repealed, as should similar restrictions on other health programs. For example, the Federal and armed services health care and insurance programs should allow abortions to be performed in military hospitals for military and non-military personnel and their dependants. Unfortunately, many recent Supreme Court decisions affirm legislation that would further erode access to appropriate health information for many women.

ADA views with alarm the cynical use of the abortion issue by some to complicate, and in some instances compromise or thwart, badly needed progressive legislation.

We are appalled by the proliferation of state statutes requiring parental notification or consent before a minor may have a legal abortion. Far from promoting the vaunted "family communication," this condemns an increasing number of pregnant teenagers to the back-alley abortions of pre-Roe v. Wade days, leading to health endangerment, sterility, and often death.

We oppose legislation banning certain abortion procedures (Public Law No 108-105). These bills that have passed the House and the Senate fail to take into account issues concerning individual women's health and deny women and their doctors the right and ability to choose appropriate and safe medical treatment. Under Roe v. Wade (and Planned Parenthood v. Casey), post-viability abortions are permitted to protect the life and health of the mother. The late-term abortion procedure ban destroys the constitutional protection announced in Roe and reaffirmed in Casey. Moreover, although anti-abortion activists proclaim the bill to be merely the prohibition of a specific procedure, the wording of the bill is so vague that it ultimately serves to criminalize safe and common abortion procedures well before viability and as early as even the fourth month of pregnancy. In 2000, in the case of Stenberg v. Carhart, the United States Supreme Court found unconstitutional a bill containing the same underlying principles as this legislation contemplates.

We acknowledge that there are divergent religious and philosophical views within society around abortion, but believe that such disagreements must not become the basis for legislating restrictions or impinging upon the private, personal choices of women facing unintended pregnancies. Such beliefs do not justify acts of violence against clinics, clinical personnel, or women exercising their Constitutional rights. We reject, as did the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, that a fetus is a person protected by the Constitution.

We view with alarm the declining numbers of doctors preparing for specialties in obstetrics/gynecology and the decreased number of physicians willing to perform abortions: this arises, in large part, from the harassment and outright endangerment of clinic personnel, physicians and their families. In addition, a growing number of hospitals and medical schools neither teach nor permit abortion procedures. All of this compromises a woman's right to safe, timely and effective access to quality health care. We applaud medical schools that have reinstated courses in the termination of pregnancy.

The murders of physicians, escorts, and clinic personnel were the tragically inevitable next step following harassment. ADA demands that the perpetrators of such violent acts be prosecuted to the full extent allowed by law. We also affirm the need to guarantee the physical safety of these critical medical practitioners. We deplore the incitement to and justification of murder as an appropriate response to the practice of abortion. We applaud recent Congressional and Court actions directed at protecting such practitioners and the clinics in which they work.

We support efforts by the medical and scientific community to find ways to make pregnancy prevention services and devices and abortion easily and safely available to those who want them. ADA deplores efforts by some organizations to eliminate or limit research on RU-486 and to eliminate or limit research on other medical discoveries which may offer important potential for reduction in unwanted childbirth in this country. It is unconscionable that American women must risk their health, and in some states their lives, while the issue is used to appease extremists. We call upon Congress to give the National Institutes of Health wide latitude to explore all possible ways of improving the reproductive choices facing women and men and to resist efforts to blacklist certain drugs or potential products.

At the same time, as active proponents of choice, ADA also opposes any coercive measures that limit women's reproductive options. Thus, we adamantly oppose requirements such as use of long-acting contraceptives (e.g., Norplant) or involuntary sterilization as a condition of parole, welfare payments, or other governmental programs or services.

ADA condemns President Bush for his action to reinstate the gag rule and reaffirm the Mexico City Policy.

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No. 130

Social and Domestic Policy Commission