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Pro-choice advocates, on the other hand, are still in the process of regrouping after the 1973 Supreme Court decision lulled many into complacency. "We thought we had won," admits Lobbyist Barbara Shack. Karen Mulhauser, president of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), explains that, until their rights are imminently threatened, many women are reluctant to talk about the need for abortion services. Some do not yet understand the full scope of pending legislation. Across the country, thanks to proselytizing by pro-choice activists, the threat posed by the Human Life Statute is beginning to hit home. NOW is organizing door-to-door drives in many communities, and NARAL is setting up local branches. Alice Wolfson, of the Coalition for Medical Rights of Women, has been working in California to mobilize support. Says she: "We have placards warning that abortion will be outlawed unless we do something nowall of us. We're bringing out women who had illegal abortions so people will remember the past and understand the future."
Public opinionalways difficult to measure on so complex and emotional an issueseems to be on the pro-choice side. ABC-Harris polls indicate that by 60% to 37% Americans approve of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. But National Opinion Research Center surveys show there is a sharp distinction to be made: an overwhelming majority more than 80%favor abortions in cases of rape and incest or when pregnancy is a threat to a woman's life. But only about 40% favor abortions for less compelling reasons.
But surveys and statistics, political positions and constitutional arguments can never convey the passionate personal nature of the abortion decisionor the often conflicting moral responses of women who have undergone what is now the most frequently performed operation in the U.S. Sarah, 42, petite and blond, is on the staff of a California Right-to-Life chapter. "My girlfriend had an abortion when she was in college," she tells a visitor. "The doctor told her it was just a mass of tissue. But then she saw some pictures of fetuses and realized she had murdered her baby, and she could never, never forgive herself. She knows she'll go to heaven and a little baby will be waiting with just one question: Why?" Later, as the visitor is leaving, Sarah rushes up for one last word. Nervously she whispers: "They don't know it here, but my girlfriend is really me."
Edith, 37, a staffer at an abortion clinic in Los Angeles, also remembers having an abortion. "It was in 1964, and it was the classic illegal abortion. I was scared to death. It was late at night and cash in hand. When I screamed in pain, the doctor said, 'You really like this, don't you?' I don't want women to ever have to suffer what I suffered."
The diverse tales tumble forth readily, wrenching different emotions, different doubts. Maria, in her thirties, is a Hispanic from East Los Angeles: "Six children is too much already. No husband, no money. God knows six is too much now." Karen, 24, has just married the father of her two children, who is