- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ending abortion may unite the pro-life movement, but a rift between the nation’s oldest and largest organization and a state affiliate shows there is still a raging battle over how to do it.

The National Right to Life Committee revealed late last week that it was making the newly formed Georgia Life Alliance its official affiliate in the state, breaking ties dating back more than a decade with Georgia Right to Life. The reason: Georgia Right to Life gave “destructive counsel” to Congress last year by urging lawmakers to oppose a bill that would block most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Georgia Right to Life officials say they fought the bill — also opposed by leading pro-choice groups — because they felt it did not go far enough. They said the national organization was cutting ties with them because they took a principled stand against virtually all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest.

National Right to Life Committee officials said they weighed their decision carefully.

“It is rare for a long-standing state affiliate to be replaced on the board, and it is action never undertaken lightly,” said Carol Tobias, president of the 46-year-old National Right to Life Committee.

Georgia Right to Life’s public opposition to the 20-week bill, plus other acts, meant the Georgia affiliate had “ruptured its relationship” with the National Right to Life Committee, Ms. Tobias said.

Dan Becker, Georgia Right to Life president, lamented that decades of work and political success were not enough to save his organization’s relationship with National Right to Life. He said his group would not apologize for its uncompromising stand.

Georgia Right to Life’s mission is to protect “all classes of pre-born children, regardless of how they were conceived,” he said. National Right to Life “has always been prone to needless compromise,” Mr. Becker said this week, but Georgia Right to Life will “not be swayed by the political winds.”

Jim Galloway, a columnist at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said the breakup was in part a “bold power play” linked to Republican infighting in the state in the heated primary to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

The Georgia Life Alliance, formed two weeks ago, says it wants to “more effectively carry out and achieve the goals and objectives” of National Right to Life, Mr. Galloway wrote. It also appears to be friendly to Republicans such as former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, who is running for the Senate seat and supports exemptions for rape and incest in abortion bills.

Georgia Right to Life has praised a different Senate hopeful, Rep. Paul C. Broun, a medical doctor who was one of six House Republicans to reject the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act when House leaders added such exemptions to the 20-week limit last year.

Mr. Broun said he was standing by Georgia Right to Life.

“I’m saddened that those of us that believe in life are fighting amongst ourselves,” he told The Journal-Constitution. “We ought to be fighting to protect the lives of unborn children instead of quibbling about differences of opinion on strategy.”

Georgia Right to Life also supports efforts to establish legal “personhood” for the unborn, which lands it in the middle of another pro-life debate.

Despite a decade of efforts, no state has embraced a personhood measure designed to “protect every human being’s right to life” from the moment of conception.

Opponents include pro-choice groups that say it is irrational to give full human rights to a fertilized egg. Moreover, they argue, personhood measures would outlaw some kinds of birth control, impede some types of infertility treatments and even make crimes out of some miscarriages.

In Colorado, where voters twice rejected personhood, two Republican lawmakers recently withdrew their support of such a measure.

Personhood proponents counter that such scare stories are false or overblown. They are awaiting a vote in November on North Dakota’s Human Life Amendment, which would amend the state Constitution to say that “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”

Once one state paves the way, more states will follow suit, say personhood proponents such as Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA.

But National Right to Life and Americans United for Life are throwing their weight behind “effective” laws on the books in several states.

“AUL’s 20-week abortion limitation puts the health risks of the late-term procedure front and center, and shows real concern for women and their unborn children,” Charmaine Yoest, president and chief executive of Americans United for Life, said Tuesday.

The 20-week abortion measures have mixed success. Although about a dozen states have laws in effect, courts have blocked similar legislation elsewhere. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, recently vetoed a 20-week abortion bill, saying it was unconstitutional.

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