With the approach of the Democratic and Republican national
conventions this summer, women’s groups on campus say that
candidates will have to address a woman’s right to choose as
a key issue during their campaigning.

The women’s issue groups on campus said this is an issue
that mainly includes abortion, but also concerns reproductive
rights and health.

According to Ashwini Hardikar, the outgoing chair of the
Women’s Issues Commission of the Michigan Student Assembly,
abortion will be an important issue because of the
“attacks” on choice that occurred under President
Bush’s administration.

“Generally, the Bush administration has been ignoring
medical evidence and health reasons for the benefits of abortion,
and instead justifies its actions based on religious
reasons,” said Hardikar, an RC sophomore. These actions
include the appointment of right-wing federal judges to district
courts and a preference for sexual abstinence programs over those
promoting safe sex, she said.

But Louise Conlon, president of Students for Life, said Bush is
the better candidate based on his commitment to the anti-abortion
position. “The abortion industry has a lot of money behind
it, but it is time for the politicians to start standing up for the
women and children of America,” Conlon said.

“Women deserve better than abortion and their children
deserve better than to be aborted,” she said. Alycia Welch,
co-organizer of the University’s V-Day College Campaign, said
that Bush’s actions have contributed to discussion the
abortion debate.

“With Bush’s recent policies on abortion,
particularly concerning partial birth abortions and his new quest
to obtain the (University)’s hospital records on abortion
procedures they have provided for women, Roe v. Wade is
losing its hold,” said Welch, an LSA junior.

Roe v. Wade was the 1973 Supreme Court case that drew on
a woman’s right to privacy in order to legalize abortion.

But while student feminist groups agree that abortion is a
central issue that candidates should address, they do not concur on
whether one candidate would represent all of their concerns.

In a written statement, Erin Stringfellow, an executive board
member of Students for Choice, said, “(John) Kerry is
definitely a better candidate than Bush, but it would be a mistake
to elect Kerry and assume women’s freedoms will be
preserved.

“We can’t lose sight of our long-term goal to ensure
that all people — women and men — have the freedom to
make healthy and responsible decisions, and that will take a lot
more work than electing a Democratic president.”

Hardikar said that although Kerry has said he will support a
woman’s right to have an abortion, it is possible that his
position will become more centrist in an effort to appeal to a
wider range of voters as the November general election
approaches.

Although abortion may become the central women’s issue of
the election, the students said there are other issues at stake
that are important to women voters.

“Choice is not just about abortion,” Hardikar said.
“Reproductive rights have to become more of a health issue
because it has been proven that in countries where women’s
reproductive health is protected, their general health is
better,” she said, referring to contraception.

Welch said another issue candidates need to address is violence
against women.

“(Kerry) was one of the original co-sponsors of the
Violence Against Women Act, which has provided over $1 billion for
battered women’s shelters, hotlines and other crucial
resources,” she said. “We have yet to see Bush attempt
to prevent violence against women.”

Additionally, the students noted that women’s issues such
as those of privacy, health care and national security are relevant
and important to both men and women voters.

While most of the groups said they would hold events to educate
the campus about the issue of abortion and other women’s
issues, they will not do so until the fall term.

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