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Five men who trample women's rights

May 19, 2007|By ALLAN POWELL

On April 18, the biggest nonsurprise in the history of American jurisprudence was handed down. Three male reactionary legal stalwarts and two newcomer wannabees settled the fate of an undetermined number of hapless females. Dutifully (some would say mechanically) they voted as expected to uphold a ban on late-term abortions that made no exception for the protection of a woman's health.

When John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. were confirmed to positions on the Supreme Court it was understood by all what they were expected to do in certain hot-button cases such as a woman's right to control her own body.

These two promptly gave evidence of their conservative bonafides and, in lock-step fashion, gave Roe v. Wade another punch. In doing so they showed that they were just as result-oriented in their jurisprudence as any liberal they professed to abhor for "judicial activism." Is it redundant to point out that all five learned jurists were Roman Catholic?

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the lone female jurist, took note of the cavalier way in which the exception for a woman's health was deliberately omitted by the conservative male majority. "(T)he majority opinion cannot be understood as any other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this court - and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women's lives." She alone saw the plight of women being shunted aside by the facile legalisms of a reactionary male majority.

Much has been made of the gruesome nature of late-term abortions. Little reflection is given to the even more gruesome follow-up results of unwanted pregnancies - fetuses with abnormalities and scarred lives. Most males, and sadly, too many women, cannot relate to the mental anguish, excruciating pain and overwhelming anxiety suffered by those who face such an experience.

I look in vain for that human capacity for empathy where it is so desperately needed. One would suppose that women would be the first to reach out to aid those in such a miserable and lonely situation. They, however, are more uncaring in many instances than males, who are more preoccupied with car racing, wrestling or golf.

Only a political backlash of major proportions can alter the priorities of American conservatism. This is too much to hope for. This president is still wildly cheered in public appearances - a sure indication that a strong conservative base exists. This is strange when one takes an objective look at his track record. But a large percentage of the public still believes that Elvis is alive.

Bush and his conservative base may be completely unable to relate to the suffering of disadvantaged women, but they can tolerate the senseless loss of limbs and mutilated bodies of American service personnel and Iraqi citizens. This president's priorities are sadly warped, as are those of his conservative supporters.

I have lived through a lengthy period of time and have been a witness to the legal extension of the right of privacy. The arduous movement from privacy of place (home) advanced to privacy of person. Slowly but relentlessly the law then incorporated the right of privacy to relationships. At every step of the way, the opposition was visible and active. This progress is indeed in danger of being reversed.

In much earlier times, Charles Dickens wrote, "It was the best of times - it was the worst of times." This is also true at this very moment. We have the technology and means to alleviate the suffering of so many but lack the depth of mind and soul to do the job.

Allan Powell is a Hagerstown resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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