TIMING AND TECHNIQUE are everything - in sports and politics.
That's why abortion has erupted now, and not months ago, on the
Missouri political scene. That's also why you are seeing a
difference in how both sides are playing the political game.
Within the last week, abortion has captured center stage in
Jefferson City. Activists on both sides cite two key reasons:
Friday marks the adjournment of the Legislature until after
next fall's elections. That gives both sides in the abortion debate
one last shot at making a point with the politicians - many of whom
will seek support from one abortion camp or the other next fall.
The Republican Party's state convention is this weekend in
Springfield, Mo., and abortion is expected to be among the hottest
topics. Anti-abortion activists, led by Pat Buchanan, are prepared
to go all out to protect, and possibly strengthen, the state GOP's
anti-abortion language in the platform. The Jefferson City
skirmishes get the troops whipped up for this weekend.
With those two factors in mind, let's go back to last Thursday.
While a fight over abortion in the state Capitol was threatening to
derail the proposed state budget, Gov. Mel Carnahan was at a
fund-raiser in Ladue for Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region.
Planned Parenthood was raising money for its new political arm
to allow it to do more campaign-style activities, such as voter
registration and education, political organizing and running ads on
the behalf of favored candidates.
Planned Parenthood had been barred from such activities under
its old legal status.
The group's leaders say they opted to make the change because
they were tired of being a punching bag for anti-abortion groups,
without fighting back.
Every year in Jefferson City, anti-abortion activists have
lobbied legislators to block any state family-planning money for
Planned Parenthood because the two organizations in Columbia, Mo.,
and Kansas City have clinics that offer abortions.
After Carnahan took office, Planned Parenthood got the money
for a couple years but then found itself cut out again. The
frustration has been particularly high with the St. Louis
operation, which long has noted that it only provided contraceptive
services and didn't offer abortions.
Now, that has changed as well. As of May 1, the local Planned
Parenthood took over Reproductive Health Services, the Central West
End clinic that offers abortion and other contraceptive services.
The takeover, coupled with the new political arm, transforms
Planned P arenthood of the St. Louis Region into a more public and
political role. …