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It seems as though young women have been taking their reproductive choices for granted.

I remember what it was like before abortion became legal. Birth control was unreliable, hard to come by and only available to married women. Abortion was unmentionable. That didn't stop it from happening. Unlicensed doctors and incompetent medical practitioners performed abortions illegally, under conditions that were not always sterile. Young women often died of infection; they frequently bled to death or were permanently injured.

Wealthy women could go to Sweden to get a safe, legal abortion. For middle-class women, there were illegal abortions, which were extremely risky, but less expensive. For poor women, it was the straightened coat hanger jabbed into the cervix, or a douche with a caustic liquid such as lye. Death was often the result.

It may seem unlikely that we will go back to those conditions, but we are only at the beginning of at least four years of backward movement.

By taking away funding from international family planning organizations that provide abortion or abortion counseling, President Bush sent a clear signal that an important part of his agenda is to erode women's reproductive rights. He has shed his sheep's clothing of liberal-sounding campaign rhetoric, and we are faced with a very conservative wolf.

The John Ashcroft confirmation is a building block in a conservative monolith. It won't take much to overwhelm the Supreme Court with conservatives - it's five to four now - and the anti-choice juggernaut will begin to roll, and let's remember that those are lifetime appointments.

In my opinion, women should consider Bush's first step a warning. I believe he is determined to send women back to the times of having to carry unwanted babies, whether we like it or not.


North Tonawanda

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