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can only be secured by a state strictly separated from religion

26 January 2009

A Nice Segue into the Freedom of Choice Act

By Gina Liggett

President Barack Obama has signed an executive order eliminating Bush's "global gag rule" on U.S. funding of groups abroad that provide abortion services or counseling, of groups that provide family planning if they also provide abortion services, and of groups lobbying to reduce abortion restrictions. The original order was a product of the conservative social agenda of the Reagan administration, and has been one of the Religious Right's favorite political victories. The Religious Right is not happy about Obama's action, and is worried that Obama's next move will be the passage of the Freedom of Choice Act.

I think that would be a perfect next step. The Freedom of Choice Act was introduced in 2004 and again in 2007 by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), but never passed. In summary The Freedom of Choice Act:

Declares that it is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to: (1) bear a child; (2) terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability; or (3) terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect her life or her health. Prohibits a federal, state, or local governmental entity from: (1) denying or interfering with a woman's right to exercise such choices; or (2) discriminating against the exercise of those rights in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information. Provides that such prohibition shall apply retroactively. Authorizes an individual aggrieved by a violation of this Act to obtain appropriate relief, including relief against a governmental entity, in a civil action.
Despite the bill's limiting of abortions past the point of "fetal viability" only when the health or life of a woman is at stake (unrestricted abortion rights should apply at anytime during the pregnancy) this is a critically important and sweeping piece of legislation. It will help codify the absolute right to abortion, and help thwart the Religious Right's piecemeal actions to eviscerate abortion access across the country.

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. I'm going to hijack a term misused by the Religious Right and say: Let's build on this Pro-Life momentum and advocate for passage of the Freedom of Choice Act.

I have written the following letter to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) urging her to reintroduce her bill as soon as possible.
Dear Senator Boxer,

Let's build on the momentum of President Obama's executive order rescinding the "global gag rule." Please reintroduce your very important piece of legislation, the Freedom of Choice Act. The Religious Right has attacked a woman's fundamental right to choose in every possible way, at every level of government. It is time to codify a woman's right to choose--permanently and absolutely. This really is a pro-life issue in the correct sense of the term: for the woman whose rights are violated by anti-abortion measures. President Obama has promised to sign your bill. Please reintroduce it as soon as possible! Thank you.

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