Thursday September 6, 2012

I am 72 -- a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. I came of age in a time when birth control was not readily available for young women. Good girls "didn’t." Other girls took enormous risks and many paid a great price; this was before Roe vs. Wade. My older sister’s best friend was taken abroad to have her abortion; her family had the means to make sure she had a safe procedure -- most were not as fortunate. A classmate’s sister died at the hands of a back-alley abortionist in a most gruesome way.

I keep hearing from the Republican side that abortion is a distraction and should not be part of the conversation as we head toward November. But is this issue just a distraction or is it is at the core of today’s Republican brand, which is very far from the Republican Party of my parents, and which seems determined to force its social agenda on the entire country?

The threat to hard-fought-for reproductive rights is very real. Many red states have already undone Roe vs. Wade for all practical purposes and women in Texas are heading to Mexico when an abortion is needed. Texas is also on the verge of cutting off all state funds for Planned Parenthood. We can expect other states to follow their lead.

Both Ryan and Romney have said they would support a personhood amendment that would not only criminalize all abortions, but would also make many forms of birth control, and in vitro fertilization, illegal. Romney has vowed to overturn Roe vs. Wade, and if elected, he would be in position to appoint perhaps two Supreme Court justices and seal the fate of women for years to come.

Most Republicans have decried Senate candidate Todd Akin’s scientifically flawed statement that women don’t conceive in cases of "legitimate" rape. However, the 2012 Republican platform still contains a plank that outlaws all abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Akin is being painted as a wacko, but Paul Ryan co-sponsored a bill (that did not pass) with Akin that narrowed the definition of rape to "forcible" rape.

In a recent interview, Ryan said he is "proud of his record on abortion," but then stated that he’s on board with Romney’s position that allows for abortion in cases of rape and incest. Ryan then added, "at least this is a step in the right direction." That comment should scare the bejeezus out of all woman.

I am not pro-abortion; I don’t know anyone who is. Pro-choice means just that, choice. We all condemn China, and rightly so, for forced abortions, but isn’t it just as totalitarian to force a 13-year-old incest victim to endure nine months of pregnancy, labor and childbirth? Is there any doubt what Paul Ryan would do if he were to become president at some point? How can any woman take that chance?

CAROLE IRELAND

Pittsfield