- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Thirty years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court found that a woman's right to privacy included access to abortion. Since then, people on both sides of the debate over that decision's validity can point to victories and defeats.
Countless court cases have been won and lost by both sides. But each side can point to key achievements, especially in the realm of changing public opinion, that indicate they are moving forward.
Pro-life groups in particular have changed both their style and tactics in getting their message across. Today, tens of thousands of abortion foes are expected to descend on Washington to mark the Roe v. Wade anniversary with their annual "March for Life."
The movement has matured in its tone and style, as well as in its choice of tools. Pro-life groups are making TV and radio commercials with a "choose life" message and finding Hollywood stars to support their agenda. Crisis-pregnancy centers are being taught to take a softer approach. Cutting-edge technology is being used to illustrate the complexities of unborn humans.
Meanwhile, the pro-choice side today celebrates 30 years of "reproductive freedom and access to a safe abortion," all the while warning supporters that Roe v. Wade still hangs in the balance. This year's anniversary falls during a time when speculation hangs heavy that a high court retirement could shift the balance of power in abortion politics.
Since the 1973 decision, some 40 million women have terminated their pregnancies.
"No longer do women have to sacrifice their life to end a pregnancy," says Vicki Saporta, president of the pro-choice National Abortion Federation.
The pro-choice side touts a medical advance: the arrival of Mifeprex, the so-called French abortion pill RU-486, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000, which induces miscarriages.
The other side touts scientific progress of its own. Ultrasound technology is so advanced that the question of whether a fetus is a life or a blob of cells is settled, pro-lifers say.
"How about an ultrasound before each abortion? There is a heartbeat at 21 days before you even miss your period," says Dana Chisholm, director of the Women's Resource Network in Escondido, Calif.
In addition to the ultrasound tactic, pro-life groups have found a few supporters in the leftist bastion that is Hollywood. Big names have been known to assist with pushing agendas and getting media attention, a fact not lost on pro-lifers.
Patricia Heaton, star of "Everybody Loves Raymond," is chairwoman of Feminists for Life. Actress and model Jennifer O'Neill is joining the pro-life campaign "Silent No More" as its national spokeswoman.
Mrs. O'Neill says she was forced to have an abortion, and that "to have the opportunity to encourage and comfort hearts of women who have suffered is humbling."
The "Silent No More" campaign is a nationwide effort to have more than 800 women who have had abortions speak out this week about their negative experiences with the procedure.
The success of crisis-pregnancy centers is seen as another major victory against abortion, though the pro-choice side sees it differently. The centers, which have evolved since their inception, have a long history within the debate.
Once known as "emergency-pregnancy services" and "problem-pregnancy centers," the facilities are now called "pregnancy-resource centers" and "loving-care pregnancy centers."
Videos showing graphic pictures of abortions have been replaced with life-size, plastic replicas of fetuses, showing women how the growing fetus looks at six, eight and 12 weeks.
As a result of various lawsuits, the centers avoid advertising in the "abortion services" part of the Yellow Pages, although they can be found right before that section in "abortion alternatives."
Planned Parenthood, self-described as "the world's largest voluntary reproductive health-care organization," sent women into pro-life pregnancy centers posing as clients in the late 1980s.
The women secretly videotaped their counseling sessions. Planned Parenthood then gave the videos to the media, which showed center employees trying to coerce women into continuing their pregnancies.
"The campaign's short-term effects were devastating," says Mrs. Margaret Hartshorn, president of Heartbeat International, a pro-life group of pregnancy centers, maternity homes and nonprofit adoption agencies.
Mrs. Hartshorn's comments are found in the soon-to-be-released book "Back to the Drawing Board: The Future of the Pro-Life Movement."
"Many involved in centers felt embarrassment and shame, and centers began to be suspicious of each other," she says. But rather than putting them out of business, it's what prompted the centers to change.
"To the dismay of our opponents," Mrs. Hartshorn says, "pregnancy-help centers not only did not go away, but became stronger."
Pro-life groups contend they are still getting a bad rap. "A lot of people think we're crazy ladies trying to brainwash women," says Mrs. Kimberly Houlihan, director of a pro-life pregnancy center in San Marcos, Calif.
"But really we're just trying to help women through a rough time. We care for each woman who walks through our door and treat her with love and respect. We don't judge."
There are some 3,400 pro-life centers or similar facilities across the country, compared to about 2,500 pro-choice family-planning clinics.
Miss Saporta says her opponents have made progress in passing restrictions on abortion, with help from the courts.
The last abortion case the Supreme Court reviewed, she said, was too close for comfort: the 5-4 decision in 2000, Stenberg v. Carhart, which struck down a Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortion as unconstitutional.
Another high-profile case still on the docket is a 12-year battle over whether protests outside clinics constitute racketeering and extortion. The National Organization for Women won a settlement against Operation Rescue's Joe Schiedler for that. An appeal is under review by the high court.
New crisis-pregnancy centers continue to open up across the country. Kurt Entsminger, vice president for Care Net, an organization that represents 650 crisis-pregnancy centers, said he believes the centers are the most vital and successful part of the pro-life movement today.
"We have to make an honest assessment of Roe v. Wade," he said. "Ninety percent of the pro-life movement focuses on Roe v. Wade. From (Care Net's) standpoint, we're not aiming to overturn the law, but trying to find practical ways to help women, so that abortion becomes a less-attractive option."
All this adds up to a shiny new look for the pro-life movement. To top it off, the latest statistics on abortion, released last week by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, found that the abortion rate has reached its lowest level since Roe v. Wade.
"When NARAL changes its name, something's in trouble," said longtime Washington journalist Fred Barnes, referring to the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League's recent name change to simply NARAL Pro-Choice America, the NARAL part kept for name recognition.


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