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Ban the gag rule


A cartoon that recently found its way to our office depicts a woman talking to her doctor. "Maria," the physician says. "The tests are positive."

"I'm pregnant?" she asks.

"Maria," counsels the physician, "the blue dog barks at the kite."

Only later does a friend explain to Maria that "blue dog" is a code word, referring to her diabetes, which might cause health problems in pregnancy.

The conversation is, of course, absurd. Or is it?

Under an administration ban, issued in 1988 and upheld by the Supreme Court in May, such a dilemma might well occur at family planning clinics that receive federal funding. Indeed, the "gag rule" prevents a physician from even mentioning the A word, regardless of the woman's personal or medical circumstance.

President Bush staunchly defends the restriction, nonetheless, on the grounds that taxpayers' money should not be used to promote abortion.

But this is like arguing that tax money should not be used for medical research involving animals -- since some people find that morally unacceptable. Since abortion is a legal procedure Bush's argument is, in the final analysis, a rather transparent attempt to use the power of the presidency to impose the beliefs of the anti-choice contingent on the larger population. The ban, in fact, accomplishes nothing more than denying some women access to medical information and procedures -- simply because they are poor.

As such, the Senate was entirely justified when it voted overwhelmingly last week to nullify the gag rule. This, on the heels of a similar House vote, ought to be enough to convince President Bush to back off from his veto threat and to realize that he is out of step with the American people and, indeed, even the younger members of his own Republican Party.

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