Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Making Abortion Rare ; after 30 Years, Roe Is Still Worth Defending

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Making Abortion Rare ; after 30 Years, Roe Is Still Worth Defending

Article excerpt

In the 30 years since the Supreme Court legalized abortion, one aspect of the debate has hardly changed: the large swath of Americans who hold a middle position between the polarizing prochoice and prolife positions.

According to Gallup, which has polled on abortion since 1975, a majority of Americans consistently falls in the middle category of supporting legal abortion with certain restrictions (as opposed to believing abortion should be legal under any circumstances or illegal in all circumstances).

Yet for three decades, the attention has been on the extremes. Their voices and actions have unnecessarily taken a matter of individual conscience and made it a matter of party and activist politics. Some activists falsely equate prochoice with feminism. Others - a few, radicalized prolife advocates - have murdered doctors who perform abortions and bombed clinics.

The polarization could intensify as the prochoice side sounds the alarm that now, unlike at its 25th anniversary in 1998, the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade faces a real danger of being overturned. With Republican control of Congress and the White House, and with Supreme Court vacancies on the horizon, the political fire wall protecting legalized abortion has been knocked down, they argue.

In addition, the prolife side, having successfully pushed restrictions such as waiting periods in dozens of states, is gearing up in Washington. It plans to push at least four anti-abortion bills through Congress.

Where the majority stands

A refreshing and needed change would be to shift the abortion focus to where most Americans stand - not wanting to overturn Roe v. Wade, yet troubled by the high number of abortions. Fundamentally, a woman, not the government, should make her own reproductive choices.

It's encouraging that the abortion rate has been steadily dropping. It peaked, according to the Guttmacher Institute, in 1981, at 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. In 2000, the rate was 21.3 abortions per 1,000 women in that age bracket.

Although that's the lowest rate since 1974, it's still 1.31 million abortions out of a population of some 280 million, and one of the highest abortion rates in the industrialized West. …

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