In the ensuing months after the Supreme Court’s Webster decision, it has become clear that America is about to be plunged into the most intensely divisive political debate since the Viet Nam War. Pro-life and pro-choice forces are mobilizing to vie for the support of the majority of the American people. Until now, most have remained ambivalent but in coming months it will become increasingly difficult to stay on neutral ground.
Politicians who try to hedge on the abortion issue will be forced to take a stand for or against restrictive abortion legislation. The coming political debate will reveal that the great middle ground is being pulled into two polar opposites.
The American public has been portrayed as being in favor of choice by abortion rights groups. Shortly before the Webster ruling, however, amidst a pro-abortion media blitz, A CBS News poll revealed the American public strongly favors putting limits on the legality of abortion.
When asked, “What if your state could pass a law that would only permit abortions in the case of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother. Would you favor or oppose that law?” A greater percentage – 66% – favored the law limiting abortions and only 29% opposed it. In the same poll, only 21% said they would favor a law banning all abortions.
Only a very small percentage of the 1.5 million abortions performed annually are done in the cases provided for in the first question. Thus it can be seen that most Americans would ban the vast majority of abortions performed in this country.
Despite such clear and consistent poll results, pro-choice groups promise to keep the American public focused on the abortion issue in the 38 upcoming gubernatorial elections. In the New Jersey race, the National Abortion Rights Action League vows to pump as much as half a million dollars into campaign ads. Executive director of N.A.R.A.L., Kate Michelman, says, “America’s political landscape will never be the same … The New Jersey gubernatorial race is the first example of what we are going to do around the country.”
In the past, pro-choice groups have relied heavily on pro-abortion rhetoric such as “a woman’s fundamental right” to an abortion. The continued effectiveness of such an ideology will be tested.
National Right to Life-Political Action Committee Director, Sandra Faucher, warned that complacency among pro-lifers in the wake of the Webster decision could spell disaster. Even a reversal of Roe will accomplish nothing to protect the unborn. Faucher advised, “Protective legislation must be passed in each and every state.”
Pro-life activists will be most effective in states where strong organizations already exist. Legislation which forces people to look at the implications of terminating the life of an unborn child will be employed. A bill that would make a woman listen to the fetal heartbeat and look at a picture of an unborn child at the same stage of development as hers before choosing an abortion will be introduced.
By shifting the debate from the Supreme Court to the state legislatures and the American people, where it belongs, many will be made more aware of the intrinsic issues which abortion carries. Most already recognize that human life begins long before birth. Precisely where that life begins and how to determine this will be questioned.
Advances in fetology, ultra-sound technology, and intra-uterine photography will be employed by pro-life groups to persuade those looking for an answer to this issue. Pro-choice groups will continue to use rhetoric which draws attention to the rights of the woman rather than to the rights of her child.
By drawing the abortion issue out of the courts and into the public arena, the unheard voice in this debate, that of the unborn child, is in the position to gain the most advantage.