- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (UPI) — In one of the most daring developments since the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision 30 years ago, hundreds of women across the nation spoke out around the Jan. 22 "Right to Life March" about crying in dark closets, becoming infertile, taking drugs, giving up hope — all because of having an abortion.

They are part of a campaign called "Silent No More," a new attempt to reach out to women who are considering terminating their pregnancies. It's not abortion politics as usual. It tugs at a woman's heart.

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Although most of the media overlooked this grassroots campaign, and instead focused on the usual fanfare surrounding the anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision, it is evidence of a powerful phenomenon — a growing conservative sisterhood.

Some 600 women in cities across America last week stood in front of state capitols and local landmarks, holding signs saying "I regret my abortion," and giving testimonies in front of crowds and flashing bulbs about painful and personal experiences.

The abortion-rights community is watching closely the campaign's development; it knows emotion can be a powerful tool.

The women who spoke out against abortion said they didn't know that a growing fetus is a tiny baby — with brain waves, a heart beat, fingers and toes — all before seven weeks. Add to that women's' personal anecdotes of pain and regret. They have a strong message.

Silent No More represents how the anti-abortion movement has evolved over the last decade. Instead of bombs and hyperbole, abortion foes have begun helping pregnant women keep their babies. For example, Christian-based crisis pregnancy centers outnumber abortion clinics 3-to-2.

The effort appears to be paying off. The abortion rate is at its lowest since its nationwide legalization in 1973, according to The Alan Guttmacher Institute, a research organization with links to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

An AGI spokesman attributes a rise in contraception use and a decrease in abortion providers as possible reasons for the decline. But the kinder, gentler efforts by abortion-rights opponents are definitely a factor.

Groups opposing abortion are placing ads in college newspapers, telling women about Christian-based crisis pregnancy centers in their area. These centers often successfully talk women out of having abortions, and then try to help them with their pregnancies.

TV ads placed by abortion foes, who are increasingly becoming more savvy at marketing their message, are giving women powerful and moving visuals on the screen while explaining there may be a link between abortion and breast cancer, depression and drug abuse — and that further study is at least warranted.

Silent No More's Jan. 22 event was barely mentioned in the national press but the early-evening gathering in front of the Supreme Court seemed a pivotal part of the day's events.

The sun had set. Freezing winds were blowing. Fifty women stood in a row holding candles and black signs with pastel butterflies and white writing that read, "I regret my abortion."

Some were black, some white. Some young, others old. A few of the ladies had furs and fancy scarves; others had on tattered jeans and baseball caps. But they all had one thing in common. They all said their lives were rocked by the experience of an abortion.

These women said their abortions damaged their relationships with their fathers, husbands and boyfriends, and tested their ties with their sisters and their mothers. There was a lot of talk of anxiety, self-punishing behavior, cancer risks, depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.

The message is: abortion does more harm than good. Many post-abortive women will not stop saying it. In fact, Silent No More is to be an annual event. Its organizers estimate that twice as many women will participate next year. Maybe the press will start to pay more attention.

Low abortion statistics. Modern technology. Marketing campaigns. Crisis pregnancy centers. Word of mouth. The wind is at the back for the opponents of abortion, legal and otherwise. It is accomplishing its goal with increasing success: Saving life. And it didn't involve a court battle.


(Jennifer Kabbany is a 2002 Phillips Foundation Fellow, writing on the topic of abortion. She is a staff writer and copy editor at the North County Times in San Diego County. "Outside View" commentaries are written for UPI by outside writers who specialize in a variety of important global issues.)

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