In battle over abortion, there is no middle ground


July 01, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

WASHINGTON -- Lindsey Montague stands in the bright sunshine on the marble steps of the Supreme Court and holds up the tiny feet poster.

The tiny feet poster is, depending on your point of view, one of the most moving or one of the most disgusting posters in the battle over abortion.

It shows an enlarged color picture of an adult hand holding the two incredibly tiny feet of what is, presumably, a fetus. In large type on the poster is the biblical quotation: "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

Sun reporter Peter Honey asks Lindsey Montague, who lives in Fairfax County, Va., why she is holding the poster.

"I think it's important to show how I feel," she says. "It's very wrong to kill unborn babies. This is my fifth protest."

Lindsey Montague is 10 years old.

Lindsay Lanham of Charleston, W.Va., stalks back and forth a few feet away, her features contorted by rage.

"I am sick and tired of people trying to take away my choice!" she says. "What if I got raped or my mother got raped?"

Lindsay Lanham says that her mother would commit suicide rather than be forced to have a rapist's baby. "And I would rather have my mother than worry about whether some unborn fetus lives or not!" she says.

Lindsay Lanham is 14 years old.

Children are now the shock troops in the abortion war. They are invited, pushed, wheeled and strolled to the front lines.

The reason is simple: They attract media attention, especially TV and still photographers, in what has become a very wearying battle.

It is not only the length of the battle that makes it so exhausting, but the fact that there are no new arguments. Everything that can be said about abortion has been said.

Witness the argument between Dan Foley, 25, a law student at Notre Dame University and Diana Dell, an obstetrician/gynecologist and member of the American Medical Women's Association.

"It's killing a person," Foley says to the doctor.

Dell replies: "If a rapist breaks into my house and impregnates me, I have a right to control my life. Abortion is not about nine months of pregnancy. Abortion is about 20 years of life!"

"What about adoption?" Foley says.

"Where are AIDS babies going to get adopted?" Dell says.

"There are places," Foley says.

"There are not!" Dell says. "Do some reading!"

"I have done reading," Foley says. "And I just don't believe killing an innocent unborn baby is the answer."

The two TV crews that had wandered over to catch the argument have already left. Nothing new here.

Nearly a hundred reporters have come to the steps of the Supreme Court on this Monday to hear its latest decision on abortion. Public relations people for both sides, some professional and some volunteer, circulate among them.

"Would you like an interview with somebody from Planned Parenthood?" one asks me.

"Would you like to speak to two legislators from Pennsylvania?" another asks me.

Eleven minutes after the court's decision is handed down, a woman hands me a two-color press release from the American Association of University Women.

"Roe v. Wade has been gutted and only a shell remains," it reads.

I ask the woman how her group printed the press release so quickly.

"Oh, we printed it up before the decision," she says.

In fact, Roe vs. Wade has not been gutted, but it suits the purposes of both sides to deal in exaggeration:

By claiming Roe vs. Wade is virtually dead, the abortion-rights side gets to push its Freedom of Choice Act to mandate Roe vs. Wade through federal law.

And by claiming that Roe vs. Wade is still alive and well, the anti-abortion side gets to keep its troops in fighting trim for the ongoing war.

Both sides seek the extremes because in the battle over abortion there is no middle ground, there are only the extremes.

On the sidewalk, one side now takes up the chant: "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Roe v. Wade has got to go!"

And the other side takes up the chant: "Pro-life, your name's a lie! You don't care if women die!"

Both sides increase the volume. The words merge. And soon there is only noise.

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