The 2003 Gallup polling and analysis are not alone in documenting a large and growing pro-life trend. The pro-abortion Center for the Advancement of Women ("CAW"), formerly known as the Center for Gender Equality, commissioned Princeton Survey Research Associates to study the views of over 3,300 women on a variety of issues of concern to women. CAW President Faye Wattleton (a former president of Planned Parenthood), summarizes the "alarming" findings:
There is alarming news. We are losing ground on many hard-won victories for women's rights, which could ambush the status that women have achieved. ...
Preserving reproductive rights, core to every woman's liberty, is far down on the list of women's priorities.
There is significant and growing support for severe restrictions on abortion rights. ... In spite of these warning signs, few women are joining organizations or making financial contributions to women's rights groups. A key finding of this survey:
"51% [of women] say abortion should be available only in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the woman is endangered, or not at all."
Consistent with the shift toward pro-life attitudes, women now rank "keeping abortion legal" 11th out of 12 "priority issues," just ahead of "increasing the number of girls who participate in organized sports." The top three priorities women identified were reducing domestic violence and sexual assault, equal pay for equal work, and child care.
As seen in Ms. Wattleton's remarks, the abortion industry — and organizations allied with and supporting the industry (e.g., NARAL and NOW) — are perplexed and exasperated by American women's refusal to accept abortion as "no big deal," by their refusal to recognize that the unborn child is, as they claim, a nonentity. And because lies are always at risk of being defeated by the truth (even when they are protected by the most powerful court in the U.S.), the industry and its friends are ever vigilant to suppress the truth about nascent human life in whatever context it arises. Every event, every policy that concerns a child before birth or near birth must be minutely scrutinized for its potential to "undermine Roe v. Wade." And anything that threatens the shaky "constitutionality" of Roe must be stopped dead.
This is one reason it has been difficult to enact even common sense legislation relating to unborn children despite strong public support for such measures. For example, criminal laws in two dozen states currently punish the intentional or negligent killing or injuring of unborn children, except in the course of an abortion. The House passed a similar federal bill, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA) in 1999 and again in 2001, to cover acts occurring on federal property or in the commission of a federal crime (the bombing of a federal building, for example). But the Senate never took up the measure.
Although the recent deaths of Laci Peterson and her unborn son Conner would not fall under the proposed federal law because they involve a state homicide law, the double-murder prosecution of Scott Peterson caused consternation among abortion lobbyists. California law defines murder as "the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice afore-thought." This legal recognition of Conner as a human being was felt to be unacceptable. A state chapter president of NOW revealed the thoughts of many others (who wisely remained silent): If you begin to treat late-term fetuses like human beings (rather than amorphous "potential" somethings or, better yet, nothings), who knows where it could lead? People might begin to make a mental connection with late-term abortion. Better to pretend that Conner never existed, and let his death go unpunished, than to jeopardize the "right" to late-term abortion.
For NARAL, UVVA is not about an attack on a pregnant woman and her child. It's all about an attack on Roe. A fundraising letter describes the bill this way: "[Legislation] that threatens a woman's right to choose is already moving through Congress. ... [The] Unborn Victims of Violence Act is at the top of the agenda and is designed to chip away at the constitutional rights of women."
Now, after four years of legislative effort, the publicity surrounding the deaths of Laci and Conner has given new impetus to UVVA. Laci's mother, Sharon Rocha, has become an energetic and eloquent advocate for both federal and state measures, greatly boosting the likelihood of passage. She even asked for the federal bill to be renamed "Laci and Conner's Law" to honor both their lives. As of this writing, a House Judiciary subcommittee has again approved the bill, and the Senate may begin consideration before the August recess.
Eight years of congressional efforts to ban partial-birth abortion are also close to success. Bans on partial-birth abortion passed Congress twice, with Senate majorities just shy of overriding President Clinton's vetoes. The abortion lobby relied on President Clinton to prevent enactment of a partial-birth abortion ban but he no longer resides in the White House. And in the last Congress, only the obstructionism of the Senate's then-Majority Leader kept the bill from Senate consideration and passage. This spring, an improved bill to ban partial-birth abortion sailed through the Senate and House. A joint conference committee is soon to be appointed to resolve the one difference between the bills, and send the ban to the desk of a President who is eager to sign it. A judicial appeal will probably be filed within hours of enactment.
Earlier issues of Life Insight discussed improvements to the original bill now incorporated in the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 — defining the procedure precisely, and demonstrating why a "health" exception is not required by Supreme Court precedent. We've not, however, discussed the Senate's amendment (offered by Sen. Tom Harkin): a "sense of the Senate" affirmation of Roe v. Wade. Although it has no legal effect and is expected to be deleted from the final bill, the Harkin amendment accomplishes two things for abortion supporters. It postpones the eventual enactment of the law, while each chamber selects members to serve on the joint conference committee that must resolve the differences in the bills. The affirmation of Roe also gives "moderates" an opportunity to placate the abortion lobby, while currying favor with pro-life constituents through their vote to ban partial-birth abortion.
The Harkin amendment, which passed 52-46, states that the Roe decision was "appropriate," "secures an important constitutional right" and "should not be overturned." What's really noteworthy about the vote is the situation of 17 senators who voted in favor of affirming Roe v. Wade and also voted for the overall bill to ban partial-birth abortion. What's odd about that? One could oppose near-infanticide abortions and still support Roe, right? No, not according to the Supreme Court's 2000 decision.
In striking down the Nebraska ban on partial-birth abortion in Stenberg v. Carhart, the Supreme Court declared that the terms of Roe (at least those that survived the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision) apply to partial-birth abortion. Accordingly, the Court stated that partial-birth abortion cannot be banned before the child reaches "viability," or even after viability without the usual, eviscerating "health" exception. After June 2000, approving of Roe means endorsing a "right" to partial-birth abortion — or it means sharply disagreeing with the Supreme Court on what Roe means.
Some of the 17 senators who affirmed Roe while voting for a partial-birth abortion ban have vigorously opposed, and even helped filibuster, efforts to confirm highly qualified judicial nominees. Their main, if not sole, ground for hostility toward certain nominees is the nominee's opposition to Roe v. Wade. It's enough for a nominee to be suspected of not supporting Roe, or of not supporting it strongly enough, for him or her to be called unfit to serve. The absence of corroborating evidence is immaterial. Now that these 17 are on record as themselves opposing (the current Supreme Court's version of) Roe, by having voted to ban partial-birth abortion, it will be interesting to observe their attempts to explain why they themselves are "fit to serve" and the nominees are not. These senators, of course, pose no serious threat to abortion rights, unlike justices who take seriously their oath to uphold the Constitution.