One of the first acts of George W. Bush as President was to bar health organizations abroad that receive U.S. aid from offering any abortion services. Today, the threats to women’s reproductive freedom are reaching alarming levels. From the President’s passionate vow in his State of the Union address to sign a so-called “partial birth” abortion bill, to the appointment of antichoice, abstinence-only crusaders to government agencies and the federal courts, the Bush Administration, in a nod to the religious right, is using every angle it can think of to block women’s access to safe and affordable reproductive health care. One example is the naming of W. David Hager to the Food and Drug Administration’s Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs, part of the Christian Medical Association’s failed campaign against the FDA’s approval of RU-486, or “the morning-after pill.” Another is the appointment of Tom Coburn to the president’s Advisory Council on 111V and AIDS. Former Representative Coburn of Oklahoma opposes the use of condoms to prevent AIDS. This relentless campaign took a particularly cynical turn when The National Cancer Institute replaced a statement on its Web site that the most recent studies found no association between breast cancer and abortion with another clearly designed to strike fear into the hearts of women who have had abortions. The National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have deleted information about the effectiveness of condoms from their websites, as well as information about a sex information curriculum.
Jewish women’s organizations are taking action. In Washington, Hadassah’s “action office” director Maria Gilson stays in touch with members of Congress, and sends out “action alert” newsletters to Hadassah members. Should a “partial birth abortion” bill come up, said Shelley Klein, director of Hadassah’s American Affairs/Domestic Policy division, Hadassah will lobby hard against it. The National Council of Jewish Women also will be educating and mobilizing at the grassroots level, said Sammie Moshenberg, director of Washington operations for the organization, NCJW is, she said, currently educating rabbis about Bush’s judicial nominees. Last year, they launched a “Benchmark” campaign to lobby senators to vote against federal judicial nominees who do not support choice.
“We’re really concerned about how politics and, in some cases, religious ideology have been inserted into the issue of health care services,” said Moshenberg. “As women, we have a stake in all of these issues. As Jewish women, we’re especially concerned, because in a lot of instances this policy is designed to promote one religious point of view above others.” www.liac/assah.org: www.ncjw.org