Score one for opponents of legalized abortion. After waiting patiently on the sidelines while Speaker Newt Gingrich engineered rapid victories in the first 100 days of the new Congress, they are now cashing in their chits. Last week, by a narrow margin, the House Appropriations Committee voted to end a 26-year-old family planning program long supported by moderate Republicans.
Their victory, however, could come back to haunt them. For moderates on both sides of the abortion debate, family planning programs have long been regarded as the best antidote to abortions. The reasoning is simple: Help women prevent unwanted pregnancies and abortions will become rare. But the right-wing attack on abortion now includes widely accepted forms of contraception. As Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston of Louisiana described it during the debate, ending the family planning program was a "pro-life" issue of greatest urgency. That kind of rhetoric may satisfy the Christian Coalition, but it's bound to scare mainstream Americans.