Twenty-five years after Roe: time to look at new pro-life strategies

January 13, 1998|By Cal Thomas

NEXT week marks the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court's infamous 7-2 decision that removed constitutional protection for unborn life. Far from being a settled issue, abortion on demand has spawned new controversies about life at all stages.

In his radio address last Saturday, President Clinton denounced as ''morally unacceptable'' an announcement by a Chicago physicist to clone humans. He asked Congress to ban it.

Let's apply to cloning the same logic the president uses on abortion, including the partial-birth variety: This should be an issue between a woman (or a man) and her (or his) doctor; we can't legislate morality.

As the most pro-abortion president in history, Mr. Clinton has no moral standing to speak against cloning. It would be like Pamela Lee, the ''Baywatch'' star who reveals her assets even while pregnant, coming out in favor of modest dress.

Republican ''leaders,'' meeting this week in Palm Springs, are proving they stand for nothing by refusing to ban funding for any candidate who does not favor outlawing partial-birth abortions. The GOP refused funds for David Duke's Louisiana congressional race because of his racist views, but it won't oppose any Republican who favors what many regard as infanticide. At least in matters of race, the person being discriminated against is already alive and has recourse through the courts. The partially delivered child (of whatever color) has no such right.

Life's burdens

Roe has spawned a disrespect for all life. Now Dr. Jack Kevorkian plies his grisly euthanasia trade because Michigan authorities are not able to stop him. And the pressure grows at the other end of life to lower the cost of medical care by euthanizing the elderly and infirm when they become too much of a ''burden'' on society.

The quarter-century anniversary of legal abortion in America is a good occasion to reconsider pro-life strategies. The American Enterprise Institute has published a useful monograph examining public opinion about abortion since 1973. The authors, Everett C. Ladd and Karlyn H. Bowman, show that the rhetoric from both sides has left public opinion virtually unchanged: ''Americans place great weight on both the sanctity of life and the importance of individual choice.'' Most Americans, they say, are double-minded on abortion. They think it's murder, and they believe it should be a decision between a woman and her doctor, who, of course, is usually an abortionist interested in ''selling'' the procedure.

Rather than continuing the fruitless strategy that has produced a political stalemate on abortion, pro-lifers should consider new tactics. Republican (and pro-life Democratic) candidates should become more visible in their support of women. This is how liberals won on Roe in the first place.

The task is to persuade the public that things are in place to handle any unplanned pregnancy. For those teens thrown out of the house -- a place to live. For women struggling with money pressures -- financial help. For women in need of counseling and encouragement -- someone to talk to. For women who don't want to raise a child -- a couple ready to adopt.

A national hot line, media campaigns giving new visibility to pregnancy help centers, testimonials from women who have decided to deliver their babies in difficult circumstances and from those who had abortions and regret it -- all these can focus the issue on women and their cares and concerns. If the abortion debate is to be turned around in favor of life, it will be with a positive, incremental approach aimed at helping women.

Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 1/13/98

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