January 25, 2013

M.D. Harmon: Roe remains the law, but pro-life forces can't be ignored

A sizable majority of Americans supports restrictions like waiting periods and consent laws.

I can't remember the last time I cited Time magazine, but the Jan. 14 issue is worth mentioning today.

This is the day that hundreds of thousands of people are gathering in Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life (coming for 15 seconds to a television network near you, assuming it gets any national coverage at all).

And it is an anniversary: The date the March for Life commemorates (but doesn't celebrate) occurred 40 years ago, on Jan. 22, 1972, when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade.

That was one of two decisions that day (along with Doe v. Bolton) that together established abortion as legal right up to the moment of birth. Since then, more than 50 million unborn Americans have died at the hands of abortionists.

Still, Time weighed in on the issue with a cover that read, "40 years ago, abortion-rights activists won an epic victory with Roe v. Wade." It added, in larger, bright-yellow type: "They've been losing ever since."

In some circles, that's seen as bad news. Some say that without the ability to end a pregnancy, a woman simply isn't "free."

But, as the Time article noted, "In this age of pre-natal ultrasounds and sophisticated neonatology (treatment of the newborn), a sizable majority of Americans supports abortion restrictions like waiting periods and parental-consent laws."

While polls still show majority support for Roe v. Wade (perhaps because they also say 44 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds don't know the decision deals with abortion), they also show more adults call themselves "pro-life" than "pro-choice."

According to a Gallup poll published last May, the split was 50-41. A majority would either ban abortion entirely (25 percent) or restrict it (52 percent), while those who favor no restrictions were only a fifth of the sample (20 percent).

The Time report even noted that "Gallup data show that 79 percent of pro-choice Americans believe abortion should be illegal in the third trimester of pregnancy and that 60 percent support 24-hour waiting periods and parental consent for minors."

(It makes you wonder if the author thinks parents shouldn't have a say in a dangerous procedure for their young daughters.)

Another interesting finding in the Time report, which said "the pro-choice cause is in crisis," is that pro-life activists have had considerable success in limiting the range of Roe's expansive decision with a large variety of state laws.

Those statutes, while they can't outlaw abortion, can help women think twice about what they're about to do and resist the pressures often placed on them by families, husbands or boyfriends to eliminate their "problem" by killing it.

As World magazine said in its Roe anniversary issue this week, "Nineteen states enacted 43 restrictions on abortion services last year, making 2012 the second most successful year for pro-life legislative efforts since Roe. (In 2011, states enacted 92 restrictions). According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, no legislature last year improved access to abortion."

Why have things been so one-sided? The Time report offered this revealing sentence: "The antiabortion cause has been aided by scientific advances that have complicated American attitudes about abortion. Prenatal ultrasound, which has allowed the general public to see fetuses inside the womb and understand that they have a human shape beginning about eight weeks into pregnancy, became widespread in the 1980s, and some babies born as early as 24 weeks can now survive."

Once we've gotten over our astonishment that little human beings have "human shapes," perhaps we can note that, in this case at least, it isn't conservatives who have found that a scientific advance is inconvenient to their cause.

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