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January 23, 2008

Column #1,378
            Advance for Jan. 25, 2008
            Roe v. Wade at 35
            by Mike McManus


After 35 years of legalized abortion, could Hollywood be more pro-life than America's churches?  Absolutely.

Americans have flocked to five movies, such as "Bella," portraying heroines who choose to give birth rather than to abort a baby.  "Juno," a box office hit about a teenager who gives her baby up for adoption, was nominated for Academy Awards as best picture, best director, actor and screenplay. Other pro-life films are "Waitress," "Knocked Up" and "August Rush."

By contrast, many of the 35 denominations affiliated with the National Council of Churches with 45 million members approve of "the woman's right to choose," as they euphemistically describe the killing of a baby in the womb: United Methodists, Episcopalians, Evangelical Lutherans,  Presbyterian Church (USA). All are losing members.

Catholics, Southern Baptists and many evangelical churches oppose abortion.  However, abortion sermons are rare.  Psalm #139 says,"You knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

Yet nearly 50 million unborn babies have had their lives legally torn asunder.

However, there has been progress. The number of abortions dropped to 1.2 million in 2005, the lowest level since 1974, and down 25 percent from a 1.6 million peak in 1990.

Abortion advocates attribute the decline to increased use of contraceptives. However, fewer young people are sexually active in high school, due in part to abstinence courses.

More important, many states have passed laws limiting the availability of abortion. For example, 25 states such as Kentucky, Mississippi, Wyoming and Missouri, require parental consent for minors seeking an abortion,. Many also have "Informed Consent" laws, 11 of which require that abortion clinics offer an ultrasound picture of the baby in the womb.

Those states have America's lowest abortion rates.  Why? When teenagers know they'd have to tell their parents if they get pregnant and want an abortion, fewer have sex. Teen abortions fell from 461,000 in 1979 to 250,000 by 1999.

Most women with an unwanted pregnancy are in their twenties and thirties. If they see the live baby in their womb with ultrasound, many decide to give birth.

By contrast, New York State introduced a "Freedom of Choice Act" that would wipe out even health regulations of abortions. New Jersey and California use state funds to pay for abortions. Those states' abortion rates are the nation's highest - six times higher than the best ones.

State regulations of abortion matter. According to Americans United for Life 107 bills were introduced in state legislatures already this year. There were no states with Informed Consent in 1992, but 32 now have them.  Similarly, no states required a minimum waiting period of 24 hours before an abortion could be given in 1992, but 24 now do so.

Prof. Michael New of the University of Alabama studied the effect of such laws and concluded that they were responsible for up to a 50 percent drop of abortions in Mississippi and Michigan.

Another bit of good news this past year was the Supreme Court's upholding of the federal Partial Birth Abortion Act in Gonzales v. Carhart. For the first time in 35 years, it voted 5-4 that government has a "legitimate interest in protecting fetal life," and can "express profound respect for the life within a woman" as long as there is no "substantial obstacle to the woman's exercise of the right to choose."

It agreed with Congress that the now-banned procedure had a "disturbing similarity to the killing of a new-born infant." In a normal late-term abortion, called "dilation and evacuation" (D&E), the Court said "The fetus is usually ripped apart as it is removed, and the doctor may take 10 to 15 passes to remove it entirely."

What is now banned is a variation called an "intact D&E" in which "a doctor extracts the fetus intact...pulling out its body instead of ripping it apart. In order to allow the head to pass through the cervix, the doctor typically pierces or crushes the skull," the Court explained. It called that "a gruesome and inhumane procedure that is never medically necessary."

However, there were only 5,000 Partial Birth Abortions.  Banning them will simply allow doctors to dismember the baby, tearing off first one leg up to the knee, then the thigh, and the other leg. The hands and arms come next followed by ripping the torso.

How is that more humane than a Partial Birth Abortion?

Pro-life advocates should use the Supreme Court's language to fight for more state laws.  More important, we need a President who will appoint more pro-life Justices truly committed to America's ideal of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

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