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Chicago Tribune

Prochoice Leaders Expect Court Wars: Late-term Abortion Law Seen as Likely


Abortion-rights activists vowed Wednesday to beat back attempts to weaken a woman’s right to an abortion even as thousands of anti-abortion protesters swarmed the nation’s capital.

The day after six Democratic presidential candidates promised to protect abortion rights, leaders of groups that support such rights said they are embarking on a legislative effort to keep the Roe vs. Wade decision from being eroded.

“We will not stop until these basic human fundamental principles are written into state and federal law,” said Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, as people on both sides of the abortion debate marked the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion nationwide.

Vickie Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, said that with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Republican president, she expects a late-term abortion ban to be signed into law this year.

“We will immediately go into court to oppose it,” she said. “This ban is and remains unconstitutional. It would endanger the lives of women.”

Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said some politicians have tried to hide their positions on abortion, requiring abortion-rights activists to work harder to elect supporters.

“We obviously now have got to mobilize voters,” said Gandy. “You have a lot of candidates known to opponents of abortion but they try to obscure their positions to the general public.”

But the abortion-rights activists say they are worried that the next election may be too late to prevent President Bush from nominating a Supreme Court justice who opposes abortion. And they say they may also be too late to prevent Congress from further restricting abortion rights.

“Since 1995 alone, Congress has voted 148 times on matters affecting reproductive rights and all but 25 were lost,” said Elizabeth Cavendish, legal director for NARAL Pro-Choice America. “A woman’s right to choose is imperiled, and complacency is a most dangerous enemy.”

Over the last seven years, states have restricted access to abortion more than 300 times, said Louise Melling, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

For example, 32 states refuse to provide Medicaid assistance to poor women who need abortions to protect their health, Melling said. Thirty-two states enforce laws denying teenagers access to abortions unless they receive the consent of a parent or go to court for permission. And 18 states require women to delay their abortions for up to 24 hours after receiving information provided by their state to discourage them from choosing to have an abortion.

“Every year, the gap between who can exercise their right to choose abortion and who cannot is widening,” said Melling. “It will not take a decision by the Supreme Court overturning Roe to make legal abortion a thing of the past for all but the most privileged women.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America and Catholics for a Free Choice announced they have bought advertisements on Washington bus shelters commemorating the 30th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

“”We want these ads to serve as a visual reminder that we will not be silent,” said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice.

Meanwhile, a group of medical students delivered a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) urging him to make comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion, a standard part of medical education and residency training. Frist, who recently took over as Senate GOP leader, also is a physician.

This article courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.


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