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A Familiar Pattern

The Rev. C. Joshua Villines

Atlanta, GA

March 5, 2005

In 1870, with the passage of the 15th Amendment, the right of people of color to vote received Constitutional protection.  This kind of liberalism on the federal level was intolerable to the good people of the South, so they quickly elected state legislators who understood their traditional, conservative values.  Since theses legislators could not change the Constitution, they hid their agenda in seemingly innocuous “protections” which they placed on the voting process.  These restrictions included literacy tests and poll taxes; shameful excuses for discrimination that persisted nearly 100 years and led to the March 7 march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

Everything old is new again.  Georgians have elected a reactionary state legislature that seems intent on using the first part of the twenty-first century to turn back the progress our state was making into the twentieth one.  As much as they might like to, the legislature cannot subvert the constitutional protection that women have over their own bodies.  They can, however, introduce their own type of “literacy test” – and that is just what they have done with the ironically named “Woman’s Right to Know Act.”

In the minds of some Georgia state legislators, apparently the “right” to hear the legislators’ views on the consequences of abortion supersedes the right of a rape victim to not be forced to carry the child of her rapist.  Apparently our legislature thinks that fear of physical pain, family recrimination, social stigma, and guilt are not sufficient impediments to abortion.  Their obvious hope is that a woman who has already grappled with these concerns and made the difficult decision to seek an abortion will, upon being forced to seek the procedure twice, lose her resolve.

I suspect that, in this regard, the legislature has underestimated the determination of Georgia’s women fight back against this kind of bullying.  Nevertheless, our state senators and representatives should be ashamed.  Women who seek abortions do not do so in a state of ignorance, and the physicians who perform the procedure are not incompetent or insensitive amateurs incapable of assessing the physical and emotional impact of terminating a woman’s pregnancy.  There is no need for this law, and the fact that its only supporters are people who want to outlaw abortion entirely demonstrates this.