Pro-Lifers Ready for a Comeback; after Big Losses in 2006 Elections, Movement Sees Reasons for Hope

Article excerpt

Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Second of a three part series

If traditional-values candidates took a beating in the 2006 elections, pro-life causes were pulverized.

Although last month's Supreme Court ruling to uphold the ban on partial-birth abortion was a welcome boost for pro-life forces, they are still recovering from last year's defeats.

For instance, South Dakota, Missouri and Kansas - all states as red as Dorothy's ruby slippers - voted against pro-life measures or officials. Parental-notification bills were thrown out in Oregon and California, and in state after state, Republican pro-life stalwarts lost their jobs.

By day's end, America had elected "the most pro-choice Congress in the history of the republic," University of Maryland political science professor Thomas F. Schaller wrote in a column in February in the Baltimore Sun.

Moreover, Mr. Schaller said, if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York - or any other Democratic contender - wins the White House in 2008, "the most pro-choice Congress in American history" will become "the most pro-choice government in American history."

Has America's pro-life movement lost its clout? Is the 34-year abortion war finally ending, with the pro-choice view in command?

In a three-part series, The Washington Times examines the future of the traditional-values movement, including the status of the abortion issue and the role of women.

Abortion warriors on both sides are taking stock of their positions, and both like what they see.

The pro-choice side is touting its "prevention-first" strategy. Introduced in 2005 by Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the strategy is intended to broaden the abortion issue, create new alliances and appeal to voters whose religious views previously had led them to support Republican candidates.

In Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Reps. Louise M. Slaughter of New York and Tim Ryan of Ohio have introduced bills to reduce unintended pregnancies - and abortions - by funding more family planning and contraceptive services.

Catholics For a Free Choice echoes the theme in its new "Prevention Not Prohibition" campaign. In a world of reliable birth control, responsible parenting, child care and affordable health care, "abortions aren't illegal. They're prevented," one of the group's ads states.

And like their opponents on the other side of the debate, pro-choice advocates were galvanized by the Supreme Court's ruling on partial-birth abortions.

"We must elect a Congress that will repeal this ban and a president who will sign the repeal. November 2008 can't come soon enough," said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women.

The pro-life side, however, has a different take.

"I think we've won the abortion war," said Janice Shaw Crouse, director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute at Concerned Women for America.

Technology "is on our side," she said, citing four-dimensional ultrasounds, photographs of weeks-old unborn babies and life-saving advances for very premature infants. Such advances helped save the life of Amillia Taylor, who was less than 22 weeks old when she was born in October. Amillia, who weighed 10 ounces at birth, was released from a Florida hospital in February, and doctors are optimistic about her future.

Technology is helping people recognize "that that is a baby" in there, Mrs. Crouse said, "and when you make that point, you've won."

Beyond abortion

Although decades of education have made Americans more aware and concerned about the sanctity of human life, pro-life advocates are facing two new challenges in the abortion battle, said Daniel McConchie, executive director of Americans United For Life.

One challenge is the ethics of stem-cell research and other technology, he said. …