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Bush's Strategy to Restrict Reproductive Freedom: A Chronology


To understand President Bush's ongoing strategy to restrict women's reproductive freedom, you need only look at his record since taking office in 2001. Bush has nominated over 200 anti-choice judges to the federal bench, has made a host of other anti-choice appointments to non-judicial posts, has enthusiastically signed anti-choice legislation passed by Congress, and has used his administration to further policies limiting access to safe and legal abortion.

January 2001 (on the President's first official day in office)

The President reinstated the Global Gag Rule. The Gag Rule prohibits any government funded international entity from using its own private funds to perform or provide abortions, lobby their own government for a change in abortion laws, conduct public education campaigns about abortion, refer women to safe abortion providers, or even provide medically accurate counseling about abortion to their clients.

January 2002 (and subsequent years)

The President declared January 18 "Sanctity of Life Day." The proclamation states that we must pursue a civil society "that will democratically embrace its essential moral duties, including...caring for children born and unborn."

January 2002

The Bush Administration directs states to classify a developing fetus as an "unborn child." The Administration recommends changing SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) so that states may cover children from conception until age 19.

December 2002

The President appointed Dr. David Hager as a member of the Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee of the FDA. Dr. Hager is a member of the Christian Medical Association and Physicians Resource Council for Focus on the Family, two virulently anti-choice organizations. In his book As Jesus Cared For Women: Restoring Women Then and Now, Dr. Hager states that the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome can be cured by prayer and reading Scripture.

2002 (and every year since)

The President withheld the Congress-approved $34 million for the United Nations Population Fund. UNFPA provides critical services to women around the world including educational materials, reproductive health services and contraception.

November 2003

The President signed the federal abortion ban. Three federal district courts and one federal appellate court have struck the ban down as unconstitutional. It provides no exception to protect women's health.

April 2004

The President signed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, an attempt to establish a precedent that could be used to weaken a woman's right to choose. The specific language of the legislation elevates the fetus with rights distinct from a pregnant woman.

May 2004

The President supported the FDA decision to withhold approval of over-the-counter distribution of emergency contraception. The FDA is scheduled to decide by September 1, 2005 whether to approve non-prescription sales of emergency contraception.

September 2004

The President applied heavy pressure on Congress to approve $273 million for abstinence-only education programs.

October 2004

The President pressured Congress to pass its Department of Defense Authorization bill denying federal funds to women in the military seeking abortions in the case of rape or incest.

January 2005

The Department of Justice issued its first ever guidelines regarding medical treatment of sexual assault survivors. The guidelines did not include any mention of emergency contraception.

January 2005

President Bush gave a recess appointment to Charles W. Pickering to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit after a failed cloture vote. Pickering has been quoted as saying, "The Supreme Court decision of the United States allows abortion on demand. It gives the husband no say-so.... The taking of life is wrong and we should oppose abortion."

February 2005

President Bush gave William Pryor a recess appointment to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Pryor has been quoted as saying, "I will never forget January 22, 1973, the day seven members of our highest court ripped the Constitution and ripped out the lives of millions of unborn children."

February 2005

President Bush re-nominated several extreme judicial nominees, including four who opposed reproductive choice, that were previously rejected by the Senate.

February 2005

The United States delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women attempted to manipulate the language in the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing conference's platform. They proposed an amendment specifying that the platform not include a right to abortion or "create any new international human rights," ignoring the original recommendation that abortion should be safe in places where it is legal and that criminal charges should not be filed against any woman who undergoes an illegal abortion.

May 2005

Three of President Bush's most extreme nominees hostile to choice are confirmed to the federal appellate courts: Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, and Bill Pryor.

July 2005

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a pivotal vote on the Supreme Court in upholding a woman's right to choose, retired. President Bush nominated Judge John Roberts from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to fill her seat. Roberts had once argued for the reversal of Roe v. Wade and stated that there was "no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution" for the reasoning behind Roe. Roberts had also co-authored a brief arguing that "[w]e continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled..." in a case where the validity of Roe was not at issue. Roberts also referred to a fundamental right to privacy as merely a "so-called" right and argued for narrow interpretations of other women's rights in cases of constitutional protection against sex discrimination, equal opportunities in education, and protecting women in the workplace. Roberts even argued against the federal government's protection of women being harassed and physically intimidated at reproductive health clinics.

September 2005

Chief Justice William Rehnquist passed away. President Bush switched Judge John Roberts' nomination and nominated him to become Chief Justice, a position that is very influential on the Supreme Court and is the head of the judicial branch of government. He was confirmed by the Senate at the end of September.

October 2005

President Bush nominated Judge Samuel Alito from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to fill Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court. Alito had a history of supporting restricted access to abortion and limiting the right to privacy. Alito would have upheld a provision requiring women to notify their husbands prior to having an abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Justice O'Connor, whose seat he was nominated to fill, voted to strike down that provision, joining the plurality opinion that found women most affected and most afraid to notify their husbands of their pregnancies were in the gravest danger.

In Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey v. Farmer, he wrote his own opinion making clear he joined the decision on New Jersey's ban on certain abortion procedures only because he was required to follow the Supreme Court precedent of Stenberg v. Carhart (Carhart I), a precedent he would no longer be required to follow as a Supreme Court justice. He is confirmed by the Senate in January 2006.

July 2006

President Bush vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. This legislation passed both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate with strong bi-partisan support, and was also supported by a majority of Americans. The President's veto reflected a decision to put politics above the lives and health of millions of Americans.

November 2006

President Bush appointed Dr. Eric Keroack to the post of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs (DASPA), the department that oversees Title X, the nation's family planning program. Dr. Keroack was the medical director for A Woman's Concern (AWC), six crisis pregnancy health centers located in the greater Boston area. Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) are designed to discourage pregnant women from seeking abortions, and in many instances they misinform and intimidate women to achieve their goal. His appointment was deeply troubling given Title X's long-standing commitment to medically accurate information. The CPCs that he directed claimed that contractption was "demeaning to women, degrading of human sexuality and adverse to human health and happiness." NAF and many other health care and women's organizations sent a letter to Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, to express serious concerns over the appointment of Dr. Keroack. He resigned in March 2007.

April 2007

The United States Supreme Court issued its decision upholding a federal ban on certain safe abortion procedures in Carhart v. Gonzales. In the first decision issued since Justice O'Connor's retirement, the Court retreated from a core principle of Roe v. Wade - that women's health must remain paramount. The ruling was a major set back for women's health and access to abortion.

June 2007

President Bush again vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, an action out of step with the majority of Americans who support this potentially life-saving medical research. Embryonic stem cell research has the potential to find new treatments, or even cures, for diseases that affect millions of Americans such as cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's, ALS, and Alzheimer's.

July 2007

President Bush's Department of Health and Human Services revised its website, replacing factual data about teen pregnancy with biased information and misleading claims, including one that states, "Abortions can have complications. There may be emotional consequences, as well: some women say that they feel sad and some use more alcohol or drugs than before."

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