By Sue Davis

Jan. 22 is the 21st anniversary of the legalization of abortion. 
Though severely challenged over the past two decades--from clinic 
bombings to court cases--the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision is still 
the law of the land.

The ruling was won in 1973 through struggle by the women's movement. 
And it remains in force today because millions of women and men 
mobilized to defend women's right to choose in recent years.

Some--like Naomi Wolf, author of "Fire with Fire"--believe abortion 
rights are safe and secure with Bill Clinton in the White House. But 
that is far from reality. A new, potentially devastating threat to 
legal abortion--perhaps the most far-reaching yet--looms on the 

The stage on which it will be played is the struggle for nationwide 
health care.

Anti-abortion forces, backed by the Catholic Church and 
fundamentalist Christian sects, have vowed to fight inclusion of 
abortion in payment for reproductive health care in the Clinton 
health plan.

Clinton reversed his stand on Haitian refugees, creating jobs, and 
lesbian and gay rights in the military. Is it likely he will stand 
firm for abortion rights? Even Hillary Rodham Clinton is rumored to 
be willing to concede.

One proposed compromise is for states to make their own rulings on 
abortion--which women's groups call a nightmare, indeed.

Not including abortion coverage as part of a national health-care 
act would have disastrous effects--especially for poor, young and/or 
rural women, a disproportionate number of whom are women of color. 
It would make abortion, as it was before Roe vs. Wade, available 
only to those who could pay.

That way, abortion would be a privilege, not a right.

Because prenatal care would be provided, many poor women would feel 
pressured to bear children they didn't want. The only alternative 
would be irreversible sterilization.

And back-alley abortionists--who were responsible for maiming and 
killing thousands of women each year when abortion was illegal-- 
might try to cash in on poor women's desperation.

Worst of all, it would be a gigantic win for all the reactionary, 
misogynist, right-wing forces that oppose women's right to legal, 
safe, accessible abortion.

Knowing this is an issue in the pending struggle over national 
health care should sound alarm bells for women's groups, unions, 
medical and legal organizations, anti-racist forces, churches, the 
gay and lesbian community, colleges and all types and stripes of 
progressive peoples.

A broad movement of working and oppressed people is needed to fight 
for comprehensive, quality national health care for all, with 
coverage for abortion a must.


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