The Battle over Abortion

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million. Abortions last year terminated one-third of all pregnancies in the nation. More than a million teen-agers became pregnant, and 38% had abortions. The court's decision and the rise in the abortion rate that followed it has provoked a crusade of unrelenting commitment, a "right to life" movement that has become perhaps the most powerful single-issue force in American politics. It helped secure Ronald Reagan the Republican presidential nomination last year and contributed to the defeat of such pro-choice Senators as Birch Bayh of Indiana and John Culver of Iowa. Every Jan. 22, on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the antiabortion forces march on Washington, sending a red rose—the symbol of their cause—to each member of Congress. Nellie Gray, organizer of this March for Life, warns that legislators who vote for abortion "will be held accountable, just as the Nuremberg trials found individuals personally responsible for crimes committed against humanity." This year the march drew more than 60,000. As their own symbols, pro-choice advocates often display coat hangers—grim reminders of the illegal and unsafe abortions to which women would have to resort if the court's ruling were superseded. Says Planned Parenthood President Faye Wattleton: "The fundamental principles of individual privacy are under the most serious assault since the days of McCarthyism."

The pro-life movement, which has as many as 10 million followers, is a loosely knit coalition of religious and New Right groups, plus individuals who feel a deep moral commitment to protecting unborn human life. Legalized abortion, they believe, not only contributes to a breakdown of traditional family values, but is tantamount to genocide. Their ultimate goal is a "Human Life Amendment" to the Constitution that would reverse Roe vs. Wade. The amendment would simply guarantee the right to life to the unborn from the moment of fertilization. A shorter-term strategy—so far largely successful—has been to halt federal funding for abortion through Medicaid. Meanwhile, across the country, in virtually every session of every state legislature, pro-lifers are fighting to halt the local funding of abortions for poor women.

The arena of the next major abortion battle will be Congress. On April 23 and 24, Senate Judiciary subcommittees headed by John East of North Carolina and Orrin Hatch of Utah, both strong abortion foes, will hold hearings on a subtle legal maneuver to get around Roe vs. Wade. The hearings involve a bill known as the Human Life Statute, co-sponsored by Jesse Helms and Representative Henry Hyde. Helms, 59, is an owl-eyed New Right hero from North Carolina who is in his eighth year in the Senate. Hyde, a burly (6 ft. 3 in., 265 Ibs.) three-term Congressman from Illinois, is probably the most ardent and forceful pro-lifer in the House. Their bill is designed to take advantage of a section of the 1973 decision in which the Supreme Court, with becoming modesty, said it was unable "to resolve the difficult question of when life begins." Wrote Justice Blackmun: "When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer." The court's

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