Abortion foes shift tactics, claim peril to women's rights

September 11, 1992|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer

It used to be, in the abortion debate, that abortion opponents centered their argument on the rights of the unborn.

But in Maryland this year, anti-abortion campaigners have chosen a theme the other side thought it owned: the rights of women.

A new abortion law up for referendum in November would restrict women's rights, not protect them, say the leaders of the Vote kNOw Coalition, which is working to defeat the statute at the polls.

"I come from a feminist perspective," says Frederica Mathewes-Green, a Vote kNOw spokeswoman. "What angers me is that in the name of women's rights they're taking away rights for women."

Although her group opposes abortion, she says, its goal over the next two months is to defeat "a bad law" for women.

Abortion-rights supporters, however, say the new theme adopted by abortion opponents is just a subterfuge, a soft sell meant to appeal to moderates.

"They're trying to reinvent themselves into a women's rights group and a consumer rights group," says Maura Keefe, spokeswoman for Maryland for Choice. "And Maryland voters aren't going to be fooled."

Both sides are beginning to bear down in the referendum campaign over a new law that is meant to keep most abortions legal in Maryland even if the Supreme Court overturns its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision.

The law would allow abortions for any reason until the time in pregnancy when the fetus could live outside the womb. Abortions later in a pregnancy would be allowed only to save a woman's life or health, or if the fetus was deformed.

tion group is focusing on the rights of the unborn. Members of the Bowie-based Citizens Against Radical Abortion Laws (CARAL) have been canvassing neighborhoods, leaving fliers with color pictures of dead fetuses.

Kip Gannett, CARAL's founder, says, "We see things in the traditional sense. The old law, which allowed abortion in certain circumstances, is being scuttled, and it's being replaced with a law that allows abortion on demand."

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