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Jewish World Review Jan. 10, 2000 /3 Shevat, 5760

Mona Charen

Mona Charen
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Where is the abortion movement today? --
AS THE GRIM ANNIVERSARY of Roe vs. Wade approaches, it seems a good time to ask where the "abortion rights" movement (as the press usually characterizes it) is today.

The last decade of the 20th century was not kind to abortion-on-demand. The Supreme Court upheld limits on abortions in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.

The Congress changed hands, going from majority pro-choice to majority pro-life. And, but for two presidential vetoes, a ban on partial-birth abortions would have become the law of the land.

Since Roe vs. Wade was decided in 1973, there have been more than 35 million abortions in the United States, though the rate declined 16 percent during the 1990s. The number of doctors willing to do abortions also declined during the 1990s by 14 percent.

The response of the abortion movement to all this -- and to the existence of an articulate and committed pro-life movement -- has been close to hysterical. Though there is virtually no chance that the United States will return to the legal regime in place pre-Roe (few states would reinstate the strict limits then in place), you would never be able to tell that by listening to the abortion advocates.

Shrill doesn't begin to capture it. Consider this fund-raising letter from Planned Parenthood. "For years Planned Parenthood has fought off constant attacks from the politically powerful Christian Coalition and the violently radical Operation Rescue. Now, we also battle newly formed groups with misleading names like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family.

All of these groups are politically astute, extremely well-funded and have a fanatical -- often militant -- approach to achieving their goals. ... To some of these groups, this might mean bombing a clinic ... blockading a door ... harassing a patient ... stalking a doctor."

Notice the sly insertion of the words "some of" and "might mean." That's how they can wriggle out of a libel suit. But it's a libel just the same. The overall impression left by the repetition of the names Focus on the Family and Family Research Council alongside descriptions of violence leaves the clear impression that the named groups go in for that stuff.

The Family Research Council has never engaged in violence of any kind. (The same cannot be said for Planned Parenthood, which engages in violence against the unborn for a fee.) Nor has the FRC ever given aid or comfort to violence. As Chuck Donovan of the Family Research Council put it in a letter to Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt, "FRC has never condoned the bombing of an abortion clinic, never advocated stalking abortionists, never tried to block clinic doors, never sought to harass patients -- never. ...When abortionists have been shot, we have been among the first to denounce the killings."

The pro-abortion movement resorts to lies on a regular basis. There is simply no other conclusion. During the debate over partial-birth abortion, spokesmen for the pro-abortion cause first adamantly denied that the procedure even existed, then asserted that the baby was already dead (killed by the anesthesia administered to the mother) before the operation began, then argued that it was so rare as to be negligible, and finally argued that it was necessary to protect the lives and future fertility of women.

Each and every one of those assertions was false and was known to be false, as Ron Fitzsimmons, a spokesman for the abortion cause, admitted months later.

Why this hysteria? Why the need to smear every opponent as violent, extreme or crazy? Perhaps it's because demonization is much easier than debate. When your case is weak, avoid debate at all costs.

But the lies have taken their toll on the movement. Polls show more conservatism on abortion than was seen a decade ago. The National Abortion Rights Action League is sponsoring TV ads this campaign year, but not, reports the National Journal, aimed at voters. No, NARAL president Kate Michelman says, "Our target audience ... is the media."

That is the one group on whom the abortion movement can still rely. But will it be enough to blunt the consciences of the rest of the nation?

JWR contributor Mona Charen reads all of her mail. Let her know what you think by clicking here. Please bear in mind, though, that while all letters are read, due to the heavy amount of traffic, not all letters can be answered.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate