Last week, President Bush signed legislation which created legal “person” status for fertilized eggs, embryos or fetuses, separate from the biological mother, making it a federal crime to harm a “child in utero.” Supporters claim it will allow for increased protection of pregnant women and stronger punishments for those who would harm them. Many similar state laws, though, have repeatedly been used to stifle a woman’s right to choose an abortion. The Planned Parenthood Federation of America was unable to stop the passage of S. 1019, the so-called “Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA),” despite a rigorous campaign. As of this week, PPFA is also fighting in federal courtrooms in California, Nebraska and New York City to challenge the “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act,” signed into law by Bush in November.
The ban criminalizes a procedure called intact dilation and extraction, which can be used to terminate pregnancies after the first trimester, and has been labeled by many in the medical community as one of the safest procedures for second-trimester pregnancies, as well as necessary in many instances. Any "overt act" to "kill the partially delivered living fetus" is banned, punishable by up to two years in prison. The law fails to make any exception for a pregnant woman's health though and lawyers argued that this makes it unconstitutional. Many women will be making their way to Washington, DC on April 25 for the “March for Women’s Lives,” to demonstrate for their right to reproductive freedom and control of their bodies – in addition to protesting the Bush administration’s continuing efforts to access their medical records.
Meanwhile, in Ireland, women’s rights activists are still trying to get the government to repeal the Abortion Information Act 1955, which limits a woman’s ability to obtain information about abortions abroad.
For more on women’s reproductive rights: Bay Area IMC|Planned Parenthood Federation of America|Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project|National Organization for Women|NARAL