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Bush twins might consider talking with dad

Jamie Tobias Neely The Spokesman-Review

The young women in the White House stuck primarily to statements of fashion this week, with the help of a pair of designers known as Badgley Mischka.

In a week of inaugural celebrations, the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade has slipped by largely unnoticed. And the Gen Y women with the ear of the president weren’t likely to voice any public concerns.

Their private words may be another matter.

In this week’s Newsweek magazine, Richard Wolffe writes about the “big dreams” which propel Bush ahead in the next four years. This writer indicates that a desire to abolish abortion may not be among them.

“In private,” Wolffe writes, “Bush rarely talks about abortion rights and gay marriage. ‘He doesn’t even carry his family on abortion,’ says one family friend. ‘He’d probably lose a vote 3-to-1…’ “

In the next four years President Bush will be pressured to appoint new, more conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, increasing the chances of Roe v. Wade being overturned.

We’ll likely never know exactly how Barbara and Jenna Bush feel about this issue, but they’re part of the generation whose voice most needs to be heard.

These days, high school sex education classes emphasize the benefits of abstinence, a message Americans certainly hope their 16-year-olds will take to heart. But as young people move out of their teen years and into their 20s, they’ll likely find that message too simplistic. They’ll need wise advice on contraception, despite the qualms of those most fervently opposed to abortion rights. Some may need a last alternative: the ability to choose a safe and legal abortion.

This week Grayson Crosby of the Choice Education Project led discussions with Eastern Washington University students on the topic of abortion.

“Abstinence,” she said, “is the contraceptive method most likely to fail — because human beings are human.”

The majority of American women who have abortions, 56 percent, are women in their 20s. Sixty-seven percent have never been married.

American social trends have moved away from the early marriages of the 1950s. Today the average age of first marriage is 25 for women and 27 for men.

Laura Bush recognized that trend when talking to CNN’s Larry King before the election. She’d love to see her 23-year-old daughters get married, but she knows that’s not likely anytime soon. “Sure, absolutely, right away and start having kids,” she told King, according to the Associated Press. “I’d love to be grandfolks. Don’t worry. They’re not about to get married. Neither one of them have somebody they’re going to marry, but I wish.”

This week her daughters wore not the demure prom dresses of the first inauguration, but more sophisticated ball gowns designed by Mark Badgley and James Mischka. They are “best known for their lavishly beaded, sexy evening gowns favored by Hollywood stars such as Ashley Judd,” wrote fashion writer Robin Givhan in the Washington Post.

Young women grow up.

Single women in their 20s, the post-feminist, post-sexual revolution generation, have come to embrace all things retro, from sexy Hollywood fashion to high heels to martinis. None of these trends have ever been known to lead directly to abstinence.

Yet if the laws of the ‘50s regarding reproductive freedom make a return to this country, it’s their generation that will be most affected.

Young women like Jenna and Barbara Bush have never lived in a time when American women died of risky, illegal abortions. When they see the original pro-choice generation holding up coat hangers as a symbol of the bad old days, many don’t know what that means.

These days Americans aren’t inclined to approve of irresponsible sexual behavior. But most also realize outlawing abortion won’t make it go away.

In some families, the memories of an earlier time live on.

Angeleana Bumpas is a senior English literature and philosophy major at Eastern Washington University. Last fall she wrote a column for her college newspaper explaining why she believes abortion should remain legal.

Her great-grandmother died an agonizing, painful death in 1938 after attempting to end her eighth pregnancy. She inserted mercury into her vagina.

Her surviving seven children, Bumpas’ grandfather among them, never got over the heartbreak of losing their mother.

In the circle that surrounds the Bush twins, their cousins and friends, one certainly hopes all their sexual choices will be wise ones. Odds are, even in that realm of privilege and promise, someone they know may one day, regretfully, seek an abortion.

We’ll never know if these twins talk with their father on this issue, but their conversations could have the power to alter American history.

All young women of their generation, whether they’re wearing Badgley Mischka or vintage Value Village, must find their voice. Angeleana Bumpas already has.

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