Alberto Gonzales’ Federal Abortion Ban Legacy


So here we are nine months after Democrats swept Congress and Donald Rumsfield tendered his resignation tipping off a series of escapes among Bush administration senior officials, including Karl Rove and Paul Wolfowitz.

The latest one to jump ship? Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who submitted his resignation today, Monday, August 27th. According to his letter, his resignation will become effective on September 17th.

As with the stellar lot of Bush administration senior staff who have come and now gone, Gonzales has become best known for what looks like mishandled situations and potentially deceptive actions rather than a commitment to ensuring an open, just and Democratic government.

In Gonzales' case, the group firing of eight U.S. attorneys (federal prosecutors) and the subsequent inquiry and investigation into the handling of the firings led to his demise. But the Attorney General has been mired in controversy since being appointed by his close-friend, President Bush. Gonzales' tag-line, "it's a new kind of war"- in reference to the war on terror, became a de-facto way to excuse his outrageous flogging of American's civil liberties including instituting a domestic spying programs that allowed for warrantless wiretapping and advocating for U.S. exemption from the Geneva Convention in certain circumstances.

But how exactly does the Attorney General wield power over women's reproductive health and rights?

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR),

"The Attorney General's office holds enormous power over a woman's right to reproductive self-determination. During his confirmation hearing, the current Attorney General, John Ashcroft, promised to enforce Roe but instead aggressively defended the "Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003," a law that three federal courts have found blatantly violates the rights protected by the decision.

The Attorney General also determines how he or she will enforce federal laws that protect a woman's right to an abortion, such as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE).

Through the Solicitor General, the Attorney General represents the United States in the Supreme Court, determining which cases the government will ask the Court to review and crafting the positions the government will take before the Court."

Gonzales angered some anti-choice activists when he was initially nominated by President Bush; many of whom felt he was not sufficiently anti-choice. As a member of the Texas Supreme Court, Gonzales ruled that parental consent was not necessary for all teenage girls seeking an abortion, despite noting in the decision that "the ramifications of such a law may be personally troubling to me as a parent."

Lovely words, but what happened in practice?

During the brief period of time that Gonzales sat on the Texas Supreme Court, Gonzales denied judicial bypass to eight out of the ten teens who came before him seeking an abortion without parental permission. And, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, he did so even in cases where the young women feared physical abuse from a parent or being banished from their homes.

Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court (led by co-Bush appointee, Justice John Roberts) reviewed and ruled on the consolidated cases of Gonzales vs. Planned Parenthood and Gonzales vs. Carhart, cases brought by Attorney General Gonzales seeking to uphold the federal abortion ban passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2003.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, confirming the low priority of women's decision-making power when it comes to reproductive health and rights.

In response to Gonzales' resignation, Cecile Richards, Planned President Federation of American's President says:

We're heartened by the resignation of Attorney General Gonzales. As the nation's leading advocate and provider of reproductive health care, we call upon President Bush to nominate and the Senate to confirm an attorney general who will be America's lawyer… America deserves an attorney general who will protect our fundamental freedoms, including the right to make private, personal health care decisions free from government intrusion.

The word on the Washington streets is that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is a favored replacement for Gonzales. You want to know whether or not Chertoff or whomever is Gonzales' replacement, will be the great defender of women's reproductive health and rights? Ask these questions put forth by the CRR:

  • Will you advocate overturning Roe v. Wade?
  • Do you support the Federal Abortion Ban?
  • Did you support the Justice Department's use of subpoenas against doctors and hospitals seeking private medical records of women who sought health care for their reproductive choices?

Liza, at CultureKitchen, has her own take on the Gonzales resignation and "how the Bush administration has used the idea of 'diversity' to empower into corruption racial, ethnic and gender minorities."

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