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July 08, 1980 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1980-07-08

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Page 4-Tuesday, July 8, 1980-The Michigan Daily

Conscience, slugfests,
and draft registration

ivery r earn of t cU rAiWi re4U m I am not superstitious.
Edited and managed by students That preface is necessary to
relate a series of coincidences
at the University of Michigan that have seemed expressly
calculated to make me think long
and hard about the possibility of
Bt t cwar, and my involvement in it.
Consider first my choice last
November of a history seminar
titled "The American Experience
h a e of War." A few weeks after I
registered for the course, the
Soviets invaded Afghanistan. A
few weeks after that, President
THE U.S. SUPREME Court thumbed its Carter ordered the revival of
judicial nose at the poor last week by draft registration.
declaring that, with few exceptions, the federal OF COURSE, this coincidence,
government is not required to finance abortions. Indedtahe oer 2m0stuent in
The decision is short-sighted, unfair, and a giant the class could boast of the same
step backwards in giving women of all social chronology of events.
classes equal rights. But consider next what oc-
curred later in the spring. One
The High Court decided seven years ago that night I was reading Philip
women have a constitutional right to have abor- book detailing some of the horrors
tions. This brought ephemeral relief to those pro- of the Vietnam War-when I took
abortionist citizens who decried coat-hanger, back- a break and turned on my TV.
alley abortions had by those who were too poor to There on the screen was "The Six
O'Clock Follies," a thoroughly
pay-for proper, safe abortions, shocking and revolting situation
comedy about Vietnam that has
But the prospects of equal opportunity for all since, I believe, been taken off
women to freely choose what to do with their bodies the air. The name of one of the
was swiftly quashed when Congress in 1976 ap- WtaTVactor who share my
proved the Hyde amendment. By upholding the appellation.
amendment, the Court denies poor women their None of my 20 classmates can
right to choose. boast of this coincidence.
Consider finally the date of my
eCourt is upsetting. birth-January 21, 1960. That
The strategy employed by the ursuptting.-date placesmy 20 birthday on
The federal government may fully support the ex- July 21, 1980-the very day
penses-high as they may be-incurred by a President Carter and the U.S.
woman if she decides to carry a child to term. But Congress have set aside for me to
since no Medicaid funds may be used if a woman register for a possible draft.
inesne FOR MOST 2-year ads, the
decided to abort, the Supreme Court in essence occasion of a half-birthday is not
lures the indigent to have an unwanted child. As particularly important. Beyond a
Justice Brennan stated in his dissent, "The Gover- slightly intensified awareness
nment literally makes an offer that the indigent that a mere six months stand
woman cannot afford to refuse." between thirsty minor and legal
womanbarhopper, the half-birthday
The Court also ignores a social reality: A woman adenwthout iassuncelebrated
who cannot afford an abortion will revert to It's sobering to think that on
dangerous, often hygenically unsafe methods to my half-birthday, I could very
abort. In addition, the brutal restrictions imposed well become a felon.
by the Hyde Amendment-many medically I don't yet know whether I'll
aborion wil no be ubsdize bytheregister. Right now, I'm just
necessary abortions will not be subsidized by the trying to prepare for the head-on
federal government-will surely result in physical collision of my conscience and
or mental complications to many unwilling the threat of fines and imprison-
mothers. ment. It's unnerving to realize I
cannot escape injury in the crash.
The Hyde Amendment "compassionately" offers [ND ITS unnerving to think
exceptions to the rule: Medicaid will cover abor- me-seiretdancesuburba mee
tion payments in the case of rape or incest or when whose closest brush with war oc-
the life of the mother is endangered. But these anti- curred in livingroom slugfests
abortion zealots, led by Rep. Henry Hyde (R.- with my younger brother-to
Illinois), vow that this is only the beginning and wrestle with the moral and civil
have mounted a drive to seek a constitutional draft andm hregistrationf e
amendment outlawing all abortions. responsibility to a country that
Writing for the majority, Justice Stewart stateddeant to use my body and risk my
that abortions are "the purposeful termination of a Perhaps it is the books I've
potential life." But the real potential is a mother read; perhaps it is the films I've
who will suffer the severe psychological and seen; perhaps it is the terrifying
economic burden of raising a child without finan- thought of killing another person
cial means and maternal desires. By a 5-4 decision, familyslrations, personality, an
the Supreme Court ignored an easy remedy to this cowardice-whatever the reason,
bleak future for many indigent women. I fear war more than any other
The Court held that social justice is available to catastrophe.
hill women-as long-as they canafford it. With that fear. as a given, a

By Howard Witt
decision not to participate in a
registration program that I
believe will bring us closer to war
would seem almost demanded of
me. Yet I find myself in the
philosophically impure position
of weighing the penalties for
not registering against personal,
moral directives urging me to
oppose this step toward war. I
despise Carter and the Congress
for forcing upon-me such a con-
test of philosophical purity
versus cover-my-ass prac-
ticality-especially since I've lost
the contest, apparently lacking
the fiber to obey my conscience

Soviets are not fooled.
caught in a logical inconsistency.
Seeing that the desired saber-
rattling effects of registration
have not been realized, the
president should now be expected
to take the next step-actually
bare the saber of a full draft. Yet
he promises that he is opposed to
such a draft.
Considering the hawkish,
"patriotic" waves now sweeping
the country and the proddings of
top government and military
leaders to return to a draft, it is not
difficult to guess how Carter will
resolve his logical dilemma. I
fully expect the president to ask


instinctively and automatically.
IN SHORT, it is patently unfair
of my government to force me to
choose between compromising
my conscience and going to jail.
What's worse, this denial of my
liberty-all the more insidious
because it involves a cerebral, in-
tellectual compromise-is
exacerbated by the repugnant
politics underlying the
registration plans.
Carter's call last January for
draft registration was a neat
political move, appealing to a
newly-jingoistic America. It also
has seemed perfectly timed so
that the registration debate
wouldttranspire during the sum-
mer months when students would
have difficulty mobilizing in op-
many Americans-especially
young people-have either
refused or failed to perceive is
that the president is talking out of
both sides of his mouth when he
simultaneously calls for
registration and solemnly vows
be is opposed to a peacetime draft.
If the purpose of draft
registration-as Carter main-
tains-is to show both our allies
and enemies that the U.S. is
strong and prepared to defend its
principles, then the plan has
failed miserably-as Carter
knows. The NATO countries have
scoffed at mere registration, in-
sisting that a draft is the only true
indication of military
wherewithal and pointing out that
all the major world powers-ex-
cept the U.S.-maintain
peacetime conscription
If our allies don't buy the
registration hoax, certainly the.

Congress to reinstate the draft
sometime before November-it's
sure to get him quite a few
I have a fundamental fear that
a strong army leads to the tem-
ptation to use it. Perhapstwe have
so far been spared a military con-
frontation with the Soviets
because our leaders have known
we were not strong enough to
start a battle. Because a draft
leads to a strong military, and
because registration will
inevitably lead to a draft, I have a
fundamental fear of registration.
The volunteer army is sufficien-
tly strong to defend America's
borders-we must leave well
enough alone and not provide
military leaders with irresistible
Make no mistake-though it is
painfully trite, I do not hesitate to
repeat "I love mycountry." I am
not shirking my responsibility to
the United States by opposing,
registration because I am fully
ready to defend America when it
is necessary. The problem is, I
don't think I'll be able to accept
my government's definition of
"necessary" in the next
war-especially if the war is over
That issue, however, is for
another day. Today, I'll just
worry about whether I'll make
that trip to the post office in two
weeks. And about the threat of
war.. And about my younger
brother, who will be of draft age
in less than a month. Oh, for those
childhood days of slugfests.
Howard Witt is the co-
editor-in-chief of the summer


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