George W Bush might have been expected to spend his final hours in the White House polishing his golf clubs and taking Laura on a farewell turn around the state ballroom. Instead – unusually for one so workshy – he was busy with official business, and on Sunday held, as one of his very last acts while in office, the National Sanctity of Human Life Day.
Who would have predicted such an about-turn on the eve of stepping down from the presidency? And what a noble way to commemorate all the lives lost during his tenure: the thousands of military and civilian casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the victims of torture by the US military, the men who died uncharged in Guantanamo Bay, those executed under the death penalty and the unnecessary victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Except the human lives that Bush was honouring fell into none of the above categories. He was honouring the lives of "every person waiting to be born... a gift from our Creator that is sacred, unique and worthy of protection." Out of all the many threads that he has pulled together to form the fabric of a Bush-ruled US over the past eight years, he chose abortion as his last hurrah, pointing out to anyone who could hear him above the crescendo of excitement over Obama's arrival, his successes in burying a woman's right to choose an abortion – in burying women's rights, that is.
Bush's reach on reproductive issues, as in so many others, stretches far beyond his borders thanks to his po-faced Global Gag Rule. This rule prevents NGOs from any country which so much as brush with the issue, even if it is simply to provide counselling or advice, from receiving US money. There is no evidence this mandate has reduced the incidence of abortion globally, but much to show it has effected a slow erosion of family planning and reproductive health services across the developing world.
Back home, according to a report from NARAL Pro-Choice America, no fewer than 317 anti-choice measures were passed during Bush's two terms, of an incredible 4,200 considered. So sure was he of his divine mission to uphold the sanctity of human life that he spent the holiday season working too: pushing through midnight regulation to limit women's access to abortion, birth control and basic healthcare, which Obama's administration will find it difficult to overturn.
The pro- and anti-choice movements and Bush's understanding of them are fundamentally limited by the names they go by. A choice is when there are two or more options available, where one is substantively better than another. If a woman feels there is no better way forward than to visit a clinic and be injected with powerful drugs to induce delivery of her unborn child, or to have it sucked out of her with a vacuum apparatus, or cut out with abdominal surgery, don't call that choice. Call it what is: a painful, horrific and violent procedure which no one would elect to experience were there any real choice.
President Obama's own conscientious work ethic was revealed in his calling a halt to the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals just hours after being sworn in. Bush's anti-abortion legacy cannot be unpicked overnight, but it is expected Obama will tear up the Global Gag Rule and restore funding for the UN Population Fund. He has said he will sign the Freedom of Choice Act which, if passed by Congress, will protect women's right to choose to undergo an abortion across all states. The 40 pro-choice and 19 mixed-choice senators should see that Act through.
As well as Bush's special day and Obama's inauguration, this week sees another important anniversary. Thirty-six years ago today saw the landmark ruling on the Roe v. Wade case, which set in stone a woman's right to an abortion.
Bush's persistent efforts to undermine this ruling were not simply anti-choice or anti-feminist. His behaviour was anti-women, anti-progress and anti-equality. Obama's response? "We know that Roe v. Wade is about more than a woman's right to choose; it's about equality. It's about whether our daughters are going to have the same opportunities as our sons. We need to update the social contract." If Obama proves true to his rhetoric, we should be seeing some change we can believe in on this front.
Lindsay: 'I want to be alone...'
Lindsay Lohan has been sounding off to Interview magazine about how much more interested the media are in her tempestuous private life than her acting prowess.
This would be a fair complaint coming from Cate Blanchett, say, or Kate Winslet or Angelina Jolie. Anyone, in fact, who has actually done any acting in recent memory. Since Mean Girls in 2004, Lohan has turned out nothing you will recall apart from late-night catfights with her girlfriend Sam Ronson and Essex clubbing excursions.
She uses a visit to Dubai as an example of how far the media intrude into her private life. That would be last November's trip to attend the $20m opening party for the Atlantis Hotel where Ronson was DJ-ing. The event was billed as the "world's largest party" and planeloads of celebrities were flown in to publicise the event. Exactly the sort of intimate gathering where one expects protection from the paparazzi.
At last I have solved the long-standing confusion over the colour of a squirrel that wanted to share my Coca-Cola in a Mexico City park about six years ago. I'm a fan of most furry creatures, but not this strange rodent. When I told my friends I had been set upon by a terrifying and large black squirrel they scoffed, pointing out that squirrels are either grey or red.
Now we have learned that there is such a thing as a black squirrel, and that they come from America. The descendants of just one released here 130 years ago are now a greater threat to our native red squirrels than the grey ones are.Reuse content