National Right to Life Committee trains for action at convention Abortion opponents regroup their forces

June 27, 1993|By New York Times News Service

MILWAUKEE, Wis. -- Over the past three days, as the National Right to Life Committee held its first annual convention since its fall from power in Washington, one analogy was cited again and again by the speakers who rose to rally the rank and file.

The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, in his keynote address to the nation's largest anti-abortion group, set the tone. "We as a country have been this way before," he said. "Remember that at the time of Dred Scott, all three branches of government were in the hands of pro-slavery forces."

The conviction that morality, time and history are on their side fired the convention, despite the setbacks of recent court rulings and the loss of an ally in the White House.

Conservatives such as William J. Bennett, the former secretary of education, told this gathering that the "extremism" of the abortion-rights forces under the Clinton administration would provoke a backlash and allow the anti-abortion forces to claim the middle ground.

The Democratic Party, Mr. Bennett declared, "has not met an abortion or a tax of which it disapproves."

This attack on Democratic congressional leaders and the Clinton administration will be pressed in two legislative struggles now before Congress, anti-abortion leaders indicated in a series of workshops and briefings of the anti-abortion leaders this past week.

They asserted that the proposed Freedom of Choice Act, which would prohibit states from enacting a variety of restrictions on abortions, would strike most Americans as both radical and anti-democratic once they understood it.

The anti-abortion leaders also argued that President Clinton's attempt to lift the ban on federal financing of abortion for poor women is one of many policies that breaks his promise to make abortion "rare."

Throughout the campaign, in an attempt to reach for the center )) on this divisive issue, Mr. Clinton pledged to make abortion "safe, legal and rare."

Much of this convention was devoted to the nuts and bolts of organizing. And many of the 1,700 participants also plotted on how to hold their longtime ally, the Republican Party, in line.

In a workshop on the Republican Party, participants were urged by several speakers to start organizing now at the precinct and county level.

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