Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Karen O'Connor Featured in U.S. News & World Report

Roe v. Wade: On Anniversary, Abortion Is out of the Spotlight

Light a candle for Roe on its 36th anniversary; much has been lost, and there is much to do

By Karen O'Connor
Posted January 22, 2009

When George W. Bush took his flight from Washington, D.C., shortly after the swearing in of Barack Obama, he left behind a considerable legacy. His impact on one important issue, however, seems largely to have been replaced on the public agenda by other issues. Women's reproductive rights appear to have been lost along the campaign trail from the primaries through the general election. Little mention was given to abortion, and it continues to rank in the low single digits in poll after poll as an issue of importance to the American public.

Even what some call "the midnight rule"—a new regulation announced by the Bush administration in December to be put into effect (probably not accidentally) on Jan. 20, 2009—failed to garner much press. This new regulation, which appeared to be a final shot by President Bush at pro-choice activists after the appointments and confirmations of two ardently pro-life U.S. Supreme Court jurists—allows the protests of nearly anyone even tangentially related to the provision of women's health (receptionists, referral specialists, or even those who file insurance claims) to lead a public hospital to refuse to provide family planning services or abortions. (Late on January 20, the new White House chief of staff announced that the administration was putting all new Bush regulations "on hold" to allow them to be re-examined.)

Seeming public disinterest in abortion rights may have many causes. Continued access to birth control—in spite of its increasingly high price tag—the legalization of Plan B (the morning after pill), ongoing wars, and an economic depression may have caused abortion to cease to keep its place on the public agenda. As we look to the 36th anniversary of Ro e v. Wade , it is difficult to find print pages or media time when competing against the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday or the inauguration of President Obama.

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