A Privacy Wake-Up Call

Article excerpt

On September 1, 1999, Newhouse News Service published part of the results of an annual University of Southern California study of more than 350,000 students entering colleges nationwide. It stated, "The percentage of young women who believe abortion should be legal has dropped every year for nine years ... from a high of 65.5 percent approval in 1989 to 49.5 percent in 1998."

Meanwhile, abstinence-only curricula is used in over one-third of all public school sex education classes. As the New York Times headlined this past December, "Abstinence Is Focus of U.S. Sex Education: Fewer Than Half of Schools Now Offer Birth Control Information." The article confirms that this "reflects a national political move that culminated in legislation in 1996 allocating nearly $440 million in state and federal money over five years for abstinence-only programs; Congress added $50 million in a separate bill this year."

Speaking of Congress, in a nonbinding vote taken on October 21, 1999, the U.S. Senate supported the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion--but only by a fifty-one to forty-seven margin. Then, in the same session but in a binding vote, the Senate approved by a sixty-three to thirty-five margin a bill that would have banned late-term abortions. Fortunately, this margin wasn't enough to overturn a presidential veto. But we aren't out of the woods yet. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Nebraska case on the same issue.

And speaking of the Supreme Court, due to retiring justices, major changes are likely to occur. President Clinton has said that, in the 2000 presidential election, "one of the things that will clearly be up for grabs is somewhere between two and four seats on the United States Supreme Court." A turnover of this magnitude could seriously alter the progress of civil liberties in the United States. And since all of the Republican presidential aspirants are anti-abortion, a Republican win could reverse decades of hard-won progress in the field of family planning.

Clearly, the religious persistence of the right wing has produced enormous conservative political gains that are now on the verge of rising over the levee. And an important part of that right wing is the National Right to Life Committee, the largest anti-abortion organization in the United States. …