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Women's Health Crisis | The Nation

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Women's Health Crisis

If the Bush administration had any sense of commitment to the protection of endangered species it might consider adding "science" to its list. After thwarting stem cell research and muzzling global warming scientists (how are you enjoying the latest heat wave, Mr. Bush, and the fact that the first six months of this year were the warmest ever recored in the US?), right-wing ideology trumping sound science is currently found in the effort to hold women's health hostage.

Forty-five countries and nine states have approved Plan B emergency contraceptive – "the morning after pill" – for over-the-counter sale, while the Food and Drug Administration has avoided making a decision for three years running. Now, as acting-FDA Commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach enters his confirmation hearing this week, he is promising to end the delay caused by – according to his predecessor, Dr. Lester Crawford – "unique regulatory issues."

But Democratic Senators such as Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray are rightfully threatening to block the confirmation until a decision on Plan B is actually made, not simply promised. After a written assurance from the Bush Administration that there would be action on Plan B – during Crawford's confirmation hearing –it turned out that the promise wasn't worth the paper it was written on.

"Americans want the Bush administration's political appointees at the FDA to stop blocking a decision on whether to make Plan B available over-the-counter," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "Dr. von Eschenbach must prove that this action is genuine and not just a political ploy intended to pave the way for his confirmation."

And the Plan B fight isn't the only development showing us in no uncertain terms that Americans need to protect women's health from those who are working overtime to impose their ideological beliefs on all Americans.

Last month in Jackson, Mississippi, Operation Save America held a weeklong siege of the last abortion clinic in the state. "A gauntlet" of demonstrators – up to one hundred – harassed patients and held up "photos of aborted fetuses blown up to the size of 4 year olds." They also went to the homes and neighbors of clinic workers to speak out against the "baby killers." At the Capitol building, they demonstrated against Islam, homosexuality, abortion and compared Jackson to Nazi Germany.

And in the state legislature – as in State Houses across the nation – antiabortion bills are part of this shameful attack on women's privacy and health. According to Salon, Mississippi requires "women seeking abortions [to] sign informed consent forms certifying that they've been told about the risks of abortion, including ‘danger to subsequent pregnancies, breast cancer, and infertility.' Thus doctors in Mississippi are legally required to mislead their patients." Add to that Bush-buddy Governor Haley Barbour's official "week of prayer regarding the sanctity of human life" before the Roe v. Wade anniversary… and a nearly passed abortion ban… and a clear picture emerges of the right-wing crackdown against women and public health.

There is a signal being sent from the Bush administration to its political appointees and to its right-wing allies and zealots: women's health is not in the hands of women and their doctors. The extremists who have already hijacked our foreign policy, eroded our civil liberties, and attempted to strangle the progress of science, must be stopped.

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