Saturday, August 20, 2005

Before (And After?) Roe v. Wade


Cathie from Canada has reminded us about two important bits of living memory history that we are in great danger of forgetting, seemingly on purpose, for a whole lot of reasons, almost all of them bad.

She brings one of the bits back to the top of mind via her dissection of the Smirking Chimp's 'Iraq War in Seven Acts' (Of the Intellectual Dwarf's) in which each act, and in particular the current 5th, is almost exactly like that which occurred previously in Vietnam.

The other is Cathie's own direct reminiscence about what it was really like before Universal Public Healthcare came to Canada.

"I remember the doctor's strike in July of 1962 in Saskatchewan. I was a teenager at the time, and I remember how scared we all were without doctors. And a baby died of meningitis because his parents couldn't find a doctor to care for him. I remember my parents, both CCFers, talking about how important it was that the government hold fast and keep up the fight.

According to a doctor in Prince Albert, who was one of the few at the time who supported medicare, the first summer medicare was in force he saw dozens of people with medical conditions they had neglected for years, because they couldn't afford a doctor and had been too proud to ask for charity.

We need to remember all of this -- how painful and dangerous and humiliating it was to be unable to afford a doctor; and how hard it was to bring medicare into existence. We simply cannot loose it just because we take it for granted now."

I was a teenager in the 1970's, so I do not remember my parents' concerns about how they would pay the doctor's bills if I had become catastrophically sick when I was an infant.

But I did start my own family in the 1990's while living in the States so in this case I'm lucky, I guess, that the present day taught me history while I worried about my own child.

Anyway, because of my age I do remember the courage of Dr. Henry Morgentaler in Canada and the importance of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in the States. And while I never had occasion to be directly involved in a situation where I would have needed the services they made available to all who chose to use them, I did have a friend who did.

And now, because of my obsessive reading, I find out that the good Doctor, on the cusp of fame and fortune, tried to access those services for his wife Sandy, but could not because she ran into trouble too soon.

"And so much for all that. I have to go upstairs and call the hospital. Sandy is in there again with another miscarriage - a real nightmare version, this time, since it puts me head on with the abortion laws. She's only two months pregnant, but the pain is so bad she can't stand up....and the pigs say they can't do a therapeutic abortion. All they do is keep her drugged up on codein and wait for God to work His Will. The D&C operation is as simple as pulling a tooth, but they won't do it.....and this is Colorado, which recently passed a "liberalized" abortion law. Man, I'm coming to really hate that word 'liberal'"
Hunter S. Thompson,Letter to Oscar Z. Acosta (his 'Samoan' Attorney), March 1970
Reprinted in: The Gonzo Letters Vol II, Simon and Schuster, 2000, pp 286-7.

At two months! This is way before quick, with a woman who had a history of life-threatening difficulties and still she and her husband could not make informed decisions of their own just three years before the first of many final decisions on Roe v. Wade.

Which makes it all the more important to forget about sifting through the tea leaves of 50,000 pages of side issues about what he said or did 20 years ago. Instead, during his confirmation hearings Democratic Senators must somehow find the gumption to ask the following direct question of Bush Supreme Court nominee, John Roberts:

"If there was a constitutional challenge to Roe v. Wade how would you respond?"

And if Mr. Roberts does not answer this direct question directly it is the Press' job to keep pressing him until he does answer directly.

It is the only way that the people of the United States will know what they are really getting.

And if Mr. Roberts does say that he would vote to overturn and he is still confirmed without a nuclear option-invoking fight from the Democratic party liberals and progressives in the States who believe in a woman's right to choose will finally come to understand that, in its present day guise at least, the Party has forsaken them.


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