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McManus - Ethics & Religion
January 24, 2007
Column #1,326
Advance for January 27, 2007
(First of a three-part series)
News in the Pro-Life Movement
by Michael J. McManus

WASHINGTON - There is news in the Pro-Life Movement.

At a rally of the March For Life on the 34th anniversary of the "Roe v. Wade" Supreme Court decision, on the snow-covered Mall in front of the Capitol one of the first speakers was Georgette Forney co-founder of "SilentNoMoreAwareness(.org) Campaign.

"We are here being silent no more, helping raise the awareness of the reality of what happens not only to the baby, but to the women and men left behind.  Part of us dies with them," she told 100,000 people who braved freezing temperatures,  On either side of her were women holding signs, "I REGRET MY ABORTION."  One man also held a sign, "I REGRET MY LOST FATHERHOOD."

Ms. Forney added, "They are standing courageously to say...that if you had an abortion and are dealing with nightmares, depression, addiction to alcohol or drugs, you are not alone. There is help and healing.   This afternoon, in front of the Supreme Court, 50 men and women will share their testimony about how abortion hurt them."

For years, the abortion debate has been about the rights of "unborn babies" vs. those of women who choose an abortion.  But there is a new activism of groups like Silent No More that is changing the subject to focus on how abortion hurts many women.

What was more surprising to me was the upbeat mood of the crowd despite the crushing political defeat of many pro-life legislators in the House and Senate. A Democratic Congress will not pass pro-life laws.  What was the source of their hope?

Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, told a crowd at a Mass the night before at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, "The American people are becoming more pro-life.  According to a very significant poll last year, general support for "Roe v. Wade" fell under 50 percent for the first time since 1973. Most Americans do not support Roe v Wade and are against allowing most of the abortions the Court has made legal."

"The Wall Street Journal" reported last May that the Supreme Court's historic decision is supported by a slim 49 percent of the public, down from 52 percent in 2005 and 57 percent in 1998, according to the Harris Poll. 

When asked if they favor permitting a woman to have an abortion in "all circumstances," only 24 percent agreed, down from 30 percent in 1993.  True, only 20 percent were opposed to it in all circumstances, but 53 percent want it available only in some circumstances.

More important that these modest shifts of opinion is the fact that the Supreme Court has allowed states to pass laws which have limited the availability of abortion. Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, notes that 34 states have passed laws requiring parents of minors to be notified or even consent to an abortion for their minor child.

Laws were also passed and being enforced in 27 states requiring that a woman be given information about her abortion, the gestational stage of the child in her womb and possible risks so that she could give "informed consent" before the abortion was carried out.

Another 11 states outlawed "Partial Birth Abortions," in which a live baby, who could survive outside the womb, is killed during delivery.  After its body is delivered doctors crush its brains before the head emerges from the mother.  True, the law was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2000.  However, Congress passed a Partial Birth Abortion Law that was signed by President Bush.  And the Supreme Court is reconsidering the issue after hearing arguments last November. Bush named two new Justices  who are likely to vote pro-life.

The result is that the number of abortions fell from a peak of 1.6 million in 1990 to 1.3 million a decade later, and have remained at that level.

Dr. Michael J. New wrote a paper for the Heritage Foundation last year which attributes at least part of the decline to "the impact of state pro-life legislation."  The drop of abortions has been particularly significant among teenagers, a 33 percent decline since 1991.  The percentage of sexually active teenagers has fallen, and teen births are down 21 percent, though America's teen birth rate is still far above other developed nations.

These encouraging trends have persisted even though courts overturned six of the parental involvement laws. 

Conventional wisdom is, "You can't legislate morality."  This progress proves that wrong.


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