- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Pro-choice backers met here last night to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established the right to abortion but saying that their pro-life opponents have made significant advances.
At a gala anniversary dinner at the Omni Shoreman Hotel, NARAL Pro-Choice America and all six of the declared Democratic presidential candidates attacked President Bush for his pro-life positions and said the pro-choice agenda was "in greater peril today than at any time" since the Roe v. Wade decision struck down all state abortion laws as a violation of a woman's right to privacy.
NARAL President Kate Michelman said her group was mobilizing a new grass-roots drive to "rally the nation's pro-choice majority to protect the rights central to Roe."
"Make no mistake about it. Today, Washington is controlled by forces who want to rob women of their most basic rights," she said.
At the meeting last night, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, who earlier in his career had supported the pro-life position, explained what led to his change of mind.
"When I first came to Congress, I sponsored an amendment on abortion. I did not fully understand the consequences of my action and my beliefs," he said. "Over the next decade, my eyes were opened by strangers and by members of my own family."
The Rev. Al Sharpton compared the fight for abortion to the civil rights movement.
"This is about human rights. This is about human dignity," Mr. Sharpton said to a wildly cheering audience in the packed ballroom.
In prepared remarks, Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, said that "a chill wind is blowing from the White House" to further the pro-life agenda. "They are wrong and they must be stopped," he said.
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts said that if he is the Democratic nominee, he will highlight the abortion issue in the 2004 race.
"If I get to share a stage with the president and debate him," Mr. Kerry said in prepared remarks, "one of the first things I'll tell him is, 'There's a defining issue between us. I trust women to make their own decisions. You don't.'"
At last night's event, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut noted that this was the first time all six declared contenders were on one stage.
"If you believe in choice, there is only one choice, and that is the next Democratic nominee for president," he said.
The National Right to Life Committee said last night that this unanimity showed that the Democrats oppose choice in the debate about abortion.
"The Democratic Party is once again ignoring the many pro-life Democrats in this country by not giving them someone to vote for in the presidential primaries in 2004," said Carol Tobias, director of the committee's political action committee.
"All six candidates who thus far have announced their interest in running for the Democratic nomination for president are solidly pro-abortion," she said.
The past two decades have not been good for the pro-choice movement, which has seen its agenda defeated or pushed back on several fronts, according to NARAL.
The number of abortions has declined to is lowest level since 1974. A majority of voters either opposes abortion or favors placing further restrictions on it. A majority of states have enacted restrictions, including requiring parental notification for minors or counseling for adults, though courts have struck down many.
A Gallup Poll reported this week that 57 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal under only some circumstances, while 25 percent say it should be legal under all circumstances.
A state-by-state review released yesterday by NARAL conceded that it has been losing the battle over abortion in most of the country.
"The overall picture is one of freedom eroded and rights imperiled. Anti-choice politicians, all too willing to substitute their judgment for that of America's women, have enacted hundreds of laws restricting a woman's right to choose, elevating fetal rights and promoting anti-choice values," Miss Michelman said. "More than one-half the states stand ready to enact further restrictions."
Former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont said Mr. Bush's "all-out attack on these rights is not only politically repugnant, but medically unsound. Women all over the world are being penalized by the Bush administration's assault on choice and contraception."


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