Planning for the Future

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Sarah Weddington gets around.

In Nebraska she was presented with a condom labeled “Go, Big Red!” In Las Vegas her cabbie asked, “Aren’t you that abortion lady?”

Which is why the Community Action Fund of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties invited Weddington to speak at a recent dinner in Costa Mesa commemorating the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

Weddington was the plaintiff’s lead attorney when she argued the historic case.

For years she has advocated for women’s reproductive rights. In our after-dinner interview, Weddington told me that she had not expected that the case would continue to be so controversial.

“I thought it would be more like Griswold v. Connecticut,” she said. “You’d get a little blowback but life would move on.” (In that 1965 ruling, the Supreme Court overturned a Connecticut law prohibiting the use of any drug or device that prevented conception.)

Weddington, who is from Texas, remembers those days well, pointing out that in her home state a single woman could not obtain contraception unless she was six weeks away from marriage. What strikes her about Republicans’ quest to overturn Roe v. Wade is this: “On so many other issues they don’t want government involved. And yet on this most personal of decisions they want the government to decide.”

Indeed. How does a party that goes ballistic over sane measures to reign in gun violence in the “sacrosanct” name of the Second Amendment relentlessly undermine for the last 40 years the freedom of the women of this country to determine when they will bear a child? And how does a party that calls itself fiscally conservative scorn the economically responsible policy of funding sex education and family planning services? (I’m not talking about abortion here, which I hate, but birth control, particularly for those women who cannot afford private health care. If a woman has trouble paying for health care, how is she going to afford the costs of raising a child?)

It’s easy to read about draconian legislation introduced to curb abortion and cuts in funding for Planned Parenthood and think, oh, but that’s Indiana or Mississippi. But the GOP’s attacks on reproductive rights also happen right in the OC.

Because we have no county hospital and because our conservative county government has cut social services, Planned Parenthood stands in the breach for women in need of reproductive care. Yet in the throes of the Recession the Orange County Board of Supervisors cut off Planned Parenthood’s funding on ideological grounds. The organization performs abortions, ergo the Board decided, despite the fact none of its funding was going to pay for that procedure, they would not fund anything Planned Parenthood provides. Since 2009, Planned Parenthood has received no county funding.

Religion figures in, though in a counter-intuitive way: Given the constitution’s separation of church and state, how tragically wrong that the Roman Catholic Church has in recent decades directed its substantial resources against reproductive rights rather than inward: to a thorough cleansing of its culture of pedophilia. In the midst of recent reports of the extent of former Cardinal Roger Mahoney’s morally bankrupt protection of his archdiocese’s pedophile priests, prayer services were organized at a local Roman Catholic Church – though not, as you might expect, for the souls of the children who were raped and molested by its priests. The prayer service was for the end of abortion.

Sarah Weddington is the daughter of a Methodist minister. When I asked how her father had viewed her cause, she replied, “He was a Christian of social concerns and believed that we were responsible to help people do things better. He was not a hellfire and brimstone sort.”

Many people of all beliefs understand that reproductive choice must not be put into the hands of the church, our politicians, or our government.

In an email, John Lindseth of Corona del Mar (a supporter of Planned Parenthood who, along with his wife, hosted a table at the Weddington dinner) argues, “The historic Supreme Court ruling, which was clear cut at 7-2 ,was about a woman’s constitutional right to privacy in making a decision about her own health and welfare — a woman who could be a 14-year-old adolescent or a victim of rape. All of us, man and woman, are entitled to make a personal and private decision about our own bodies. A recent Wall Street Journal poll said it best: We are split about down the middle on whether a person will or will not personally have an abortion but 70% of all of us support a woman’s right to make her own decision.”

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