Two sides in abortion battle tally gains, gird for next round: in state legislatures

November 08, 1990|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Though weary from a long night of watching the abortion issue get pulled this way and that in the election returns, both sides started to gear up yesterday for the next round of fights -- probably starting in Michigan and Ohio -- over new laws against abortion.

Those two big states were singled out by abortion foes as the first places to test in state legislatures the political gains they claimed in the Tuesday results.

In Ohio and Michigan, the aim of anti-abortion forces will be the same as it has been in recent years: get the legislatures to pass tough new restrictions on abortion and to set up new tests in court of theirauthority to curb the right to end a pregnancy. Tuesday's elections brought two new anti-abortion governors into office in those states, thus apparently removing the threat of veto of anti-abortion measures.

In only a few states -- Maryland could be one of those -- abortion-rights forces may take the initiative to get new laws favorable to their cause enacted. But, for the most part, those forces made clear yesterday that they would be trying to mass their energies to fend off the legislative maneuvers of abortion foes in Michigan, Ohio and elsewhere.

In a round of sometimes overlapping news conferences yesterday, each side demonstrated the ease with which Tuesday's outcomes could be shown to prove its gains, explain away all or nearly all of its losses and discredit the other's claims of gains.

But beneath the post-election analyses, it was apparent that the opposing forces were beginning to look beyond the influence that the issue had had on the voters and to start laying plans for exploiting the results in legislative battles beginning in January.

Most of those battles will be in state legislatures, but there was talk of the impact of Tuesday's results on Congress, too. The abortion foes conceded that they had lost a net of eight followers in the House, while abortion-rights forces claimed to have made from seven to nine pickups in the House.

But, with the greatest number of battles likely in state capitals, both sides were taking a measure of what Tuesday's impact had been on the state legislatures.

Abortion foes said they had made a net gain of at least 25 seats in state legislatures across the country. Their calculation was that their sympathizers had taken 49 seats that were open or held previously by opponents, while abortion-rights candidates had claimed 24 seats that were open or held by abortion foes.

Nationwide, the abortion foes said, there had been 1,966 state legislative races this year in which abortion was an issue dividing the candidates. So far, their calculations showed, 1,187 of those races had produced results, with abortion foes winning 666 and abortion-rights supporters 521.

The abortion foes said their most visible individual gains were:

* In Wisconsin, where the state Senate majority leader abortion-rights supporter Joseph Strohl, a Democrat, was unseated by an abortion foe, Republican George Petak.

In Pennsylvania, where the most visible anti-abortion activist in the legislature, Republican Stephen F. Freind, survived despite being a top target for defeat by the National Abortion Rights Action League.

Abortion-rights supporters had no national figures yesterday on wins and losses in the legislatures, but they put heavy stress on their most visible individual gains:

* In California, a youthful GOP state assemblyman whose anti-abortion efforts were so strong and visible that he was one of the top nine in the nation marked for defeat by NARAL, Kurt Pringle, lost his Orange County seat to Democrat Tom Umberg.

In Pennsylvania, an anti-abortion leader in the state Senate, Republican M. Joseph Rocks, lost his Philadelphia seat to abortion-rights activist Allyson Schwartz.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.