Speaking before about 50 mostly pro-choice students at a Silliman College Master’s Tea Thursday, Susan Yolen, vice president of public affairs and communications at Connecticut Planned Parenthood, attacked U.S. President George W. Bush for his efforts to wage a “war on women.”
The talk — which comes at the 30-year anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision — covered topics such as the judicial and congressional battles that lie ahead for pro-choice Americans, abstinence-only education, and faith-based crisis pregnancy centers.
Yolen — a self-proclaimed product of late 1960s campus activism — said half of all pregnancies in the United States are not planned, despite the fact that the teen pregnancy rate has declined in recent years. She called for better sex education in schools across the nation.
“There are newer, more-effective birth control methods that are coming out,” Yolen said. “Educating children is the single-most important way to prevent unwanted pregnancies.”
Yolen’s son, Gregory, is a junior in Pierson College and a Yale Daily News columnist.
From appointing “extreme anti-choice zealots” to top administrative positions to increasing “abstinence-only” education funding, Bush ’68 has been fighting a “war on women” since his inauguration two years ago, Yolen said. She said Bush is trying to outlaw abortion by replacing scientific fact with right-wing ideology and packing the courts with conservatives who could possibly overturn the Roe v. Wade decision.
“Abstinence-only education will leave children ill-prepared for when they decide abstinence is not the path they want to take,” Yolen said.
As evidence that overturning Roe v. Wade lies on Bush’s long-term agenda, Yolen cited Bush’s renomination of pro-life Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. to the federal appeals court in New Orleans. Pickering’s initial nomination — which did not pass through the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate last year — was backed by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
Other components of this “War on Women” include instituting gag rules that censor free speech, supporting legislation that limits access to family planning and investing large sums of money in “medically unproven” abstinence-only sex education, Yolen said.
Yolen also discussed the nation’s crisis pregnancy centers, which she said often have religious overtones. She said the staff at crisis centers often encourage women not only to have their babies, but also to marry the men who impregnated them.
But she said these crisis centers tend to advertise abortion and other pro-choice options in their literature, misguiding pregnant women who may still be undecided. The staff at these centers usually do not even present abortion as an option, and when they do, they only tell the patients about the horrors and dangers, Yolen said.
“It’s extremely misleading, telling people that all options are open when in fact they are not,” she said.
Yolen predicted that abortion rights would be a hot topic during the 2004 presidential campaign. Although former Vice President Al Gore avoided the issue and frequently did not voice his pro-choice opinion, Yolen said the Democratic candidates this time will stand up tall in support of a woman’s right to chose.
“Sex is still used as a weapon,” Yolen said. “Abortion is always going to be necessary because people are always going to make mistakes.”