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Ramifications of PBAB Act 2003

The author of The Way It Was details a nation pre-Roe v. Wade and what women contended with when faced with an unwanted pregnancy. On November 5, 2003 the predominately male government signed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban bill into law.[1] The breakdown of the vote is as follows: 33 nay, 64 yea and two abstained.[2] In 2003 there were fourteen women and of those fourteen, thirteen voted; nine against and five for.[3] The senate was made of fifty-one republicans, forty-eight democrats and one independent. Republicans voted 3 nay and 47 yea.  Democrats voted 30 nay and 17 yea. These statistics point to a definite majority of male republicans but the issue clearly is not confined to strict gender or political party.  The author would have you believe differently by choosing to name party affiliations. This vote clearly denotes that both parties were involved in the passing and should have the reader re-think the idea of voting straight party ballot. Clarifying this important fact is just as important as her argument, that is the passing of this bill allowed a foothold to be gained by anti-choice activists.

Cooney explains many reasons why women should have reproductive rights however she fails like so many activists to mention the realities of women who want to have children and the ramifications of problem pregnancies pre-Roe v. Wade.  In 1968 just five months after my birth, my mother was trying to fulfill a dream of mothering nine children.  This was just her second pregnancy though.  A Michigan transplant from North Carolina she took up home-making after working three jobs to get my father through university. She was accustomed to hard work so caring for home, a newborn and being with child would not be an issue. But within weeks of the rabbit dying problems started to arise. She began bleeding. Her visits to the doctor became weekly.  She continued to bleed and every week the doctor confirmed she was still pregnant. After four months the doctor informed her that “if it goes to term this baby will be a vegetable.”[4] She was not given any choice and as a matter a fact she had no legal choice. The physician continued to monitor her health, but did little. My grandmother worried, pleading with my mother to come to North Carolina where she felt something could be done. Whether it would be a legal “something” remains unclear. However my mother declined as did her health.  She faced much blood loss and her weight was dropping as well.  Almost seven months into this difficult pregnancy my father chose to go on a hunting trip. Virtually alone, my mother’s temperature rose to 103 degrees. Barely able, she made her way out of bed to the bathroom where she lost her child. She called her doctor who informed her that she had an obligation to bring the fetus with her to hospital as an autopsy was required. Extremely ill, she removed the what my mother described as an “octopus” from the commode.  She then placed it in a jar and drove herself to hospital. She would spend the next week in hospital, the whereabouts of her husband unknown. Eventually she would have two more healthy boys, her last being so detrimental to her health she was advised to have a hysterectomy.  My mother was lucky in this respect: She had me and two more children afterward but this event could happen to anyone pre-Roe v. Wade. How tragic if my mother had no children and this was the closest she ever came to experiencing motherhood. This is an example where not only the physical health of the woman is hindered by law but the mental health as well.

Reproductive rights expand much further than abortion.  A foothold in repealing Roe v. Wade is a foothold in reducing women’s health and choice.  By a stroke of a pen this bill was passed by both parties and both genders albeit unequal. Believing it takes only one party over another to push issues is a fallacy.  Perhaps media and party-driven propaganda want to keep the voter uninformed? Education and history are our only alternative to preventing bad law. Representation of oral histories to include a myriad of issues confronting women’s reproductive rights need to be included. Some women who are staunch anti-abortionists may feel differently if forced to face the realization that even they could be considered guilty of murder until proven innocent by an autopsy. Many men also need to reassess removing any freedom from women’s reproductive rights, as it may be their spouse, sister, or daughter accused or worse, prosecuted. Lines would need to be drawn; examples and precedents would be set, at the expense of women’s health and freedom.


[1] Eleanor Cooney, The Way It Was from Women’s Voices Feminist Voices, 5th edition (New York: McGraw Hill, 2012) p. 313

[2] Library of Congress, Bill Summary & Status 108th Congress (2003-2004) S.3 All Information, November 5, 2003. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:SN00003:@@@L&summ2=m& (accessed March 17, 2013)

[3] United States Senate, Women in the Senate, March 2013. http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/women_senators.htm (accessed March 17, 2013)

[4] Lucinda Manska, Personal interview by author March 3, 2013. Mother’s name in 1968.


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