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The title of the January 14 issue of Time magazine reads, “40 years ago, abortion-rights activists won an epic victory with Roe v. Wade. They’ve been losing ever since.”

It’s hard to imagine the other side thinks they’re losing. They’re defending their turf atop 55 million dead babies. How many more do they want? They heap 1.2-1.6 million more every year. But I agree we are slowly but surely strangling them, even as they slowly but surely commit harikari.

The cover article is only available by subscription, but I will excerpt its major points. It’s always fascinating to me to view the situation through the other side’s eyes.

Before I list them, I want to mention that Time also published an excellent essay by Susan B. Anthony List’s Emily Buchanan, “Pro-life and feminism aren’t mutually exclusive,” which is viewable online.

On to the list of pro-abortion laments…

Pro-life laws

In the past two decades, laws like the ones that govern appointments at Red River [in North Dakota] have been passed with regularity as pro-life state legislators have redrawn the boundaries of legal abortion in the U.S. In 2011, 92 abortion-regulating provisions – a record number – passed in 24 states after Republicans gained new and larger majorities in 2010 in many legislatures across the country. These laws make it harder every year to exercise a right heralded as a crowning achievement of the 20th century women’s movement.

In addition to North Dakota, three other states – South Dakota, Mississippi and Arkansas – have just one surgical-abortion clinic in operation.

According to my studies/sources, there are actually five states with only one abortion clinic, the four listed above, plus Wyoming. National Abortion Federation lists Wyoming as having NO “NAF member provider(s).” Planned Parenthood’s lone Wyoming clinic only offers abortion referrals. Perhaps someone has updated info?

The number of abortion providers nationwide shrank from 2,908 in 1982 to 1,793 in 2008, the latest year for which data is available.

This number comes from Guttmacher Institute and includes hospitals committing abortion as well as private practices. lists the total number of free-standing abortion clinics down to 861 (659 surgical abortion clinics plus 202 “abortion pill” clinics).

Getting an abortion in America is, in some places, harder today than at any point since it became a constitutionally protected right 40 years ago this month

It might seem as though recent electoral victories by Barack Obama and congressional Democrats set the stage for a reversal of this trend. The President’s campaign mobilized Democratic voters and women around the issue of reproductive rights – an effort that produced, according to some exit polls, the widest gender voting gap in history.

But while the right to have an abortion is federal law, exactly who can access the service and under what circumstances is the purview of states. And at the state level, abortion-rights activists are unequivocally losing….

The modern era of state restrictions on abortion began in 1992 with the Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The court upheld Roe v. Wade but said states have a right to regulate abortion as long as they don’t write laws that impose an “undue burden” on women.

Pro-life politicians enacting laws to limit abortion are now testing the limits of the Casey ruling. Their ultimate goal is to land another abortion case before a sympathetic Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn Roe. Along the way, in what Charmaine Yoest, president of the antiabortion group Americans United for Life, describes as a strategy to “work around Roe,” pro-life activists hope to severely – or completely – curtail access to abortion at the state level….

The other strength of the state-based clinic laws, which often are based on text written by pro-life activists and lawyers and distributed to lawmakers, is that they are hard to campaign against. The zoning regulation in Virginia, for example, would require abortion clinics to widen all hallways to 5 ft. (1.5 m). “Is that the kind of thing that will rally voters?” asks Cristina Page, author of the book How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America. “‘We’re not going to expand these hallways to be 5 ft. wide!’ is not a compelling message. The villain is now in the fine print.”

Cristina neglected to mention the rationale for 5 ft. hallways, which is the minimum width required for two gurneys to pass. Hello, women’s safety?

Public sentiment

Part of the reason is that the public is siding more and more with their opponents. Even though 3/4 of Americans believe abortion should be legal under some or all circumstances, just 41% identified themselves as pro-choice in a Gallup survey conducted in May 2012. In this age of prenatal ultrasounds and sophisticated neonatology, a sizable majority of Americans supports abortion restrictions like waiting periods and parental-consent laws. Pro-life activists write the legislation to set these rules.

Their pro-choice counterparts, meanwhile, have opted to stick with their longtime core message that government should not interfere at all with women’s health care decisions, a stance that seems tone-deaf to the current reality.

Pro-choice activists’ failure to adapt to the shift in public attitudes on abortion has left their cause stranded in the past, says Frances Kissling, a longtime abortion-rights advocate and former president of Catholics for Choice. Kissling is part of a small group within the pro-choice movement trying to push the cause toward more nuanced stances. “The established pro-choice position – which essentially is: abortion should be legal, a private matter between a woman and her doctor, with no restriction or regulation beyond what is absolutely necessary to protect the woman’s health – makes 50% of the population extremely uncomfortable and unwilling to associate with us,” she says.

Generational in-fighting

At the same time, a rebellion within the abortion-rights cause – pitting feminists in their 20s and 30s against pro-choice power brokers who were in their 20s and 30s when Roe was decided – threatens to tear it in two. Many young activists are bypassing the legacy feminist organizations that have historically protected access to abortion, weakening the pro-choice establishment at the very moment it needs to coalesce around new strategies to combat pro-life gains and connect with the public.

As memories of women dying from illegal pre-Roe abortions become more distant, the pro-choice cause is in crisis…. If abortion-rights activists don’t come together to adapt to shifting public opinion on the issue of reproductive rights, abortion access in America will almost certainly continue to erode….

But in Washington, establishment pro-choice activists are dealing with another set of threats that are mostly self-inflicted. What pro-choice activists call “the movement” is in many ways more fragmented than it’s ever been, thanks to a widening generational divide. The problem is rooted in leadership, which is concentrated in a small but powerful army of women who were in their 20s and 30s when Roe was decided and who now oversee a number of establishment feminist organizations, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, run by Nancy Keenan, 60; the National Organization for Women, headed by Terry O’Neill, 60; and Feminist Majority, run by co-founder Eleanor Smeal, 73.

Some of these leaders and their similarly aged deputies have been reluctant to pass the torch, according to a growing number of younger abortion-rights activists who say their predecessors are hindering the movement from updating its strategy to appeal to new audiences….

I find it interesting that although Keenan announced she was retiring eight months ago, NARAL hasn’t yet found a successor. Shouldn’t she have been grooming one? And, of course, the irony remains that abortion proponents have killed 1/3 of their future followers.

But the infighting could splinter the movement if the younger generation abandons those feminist institutions that have traditionally been the headquarters for voter-mobilization campaigns, fundraising and lobbying, the lifeblood of any political movement. Erin Matson, 32, became a vice president of NOW in 2009 but recently resigned. “When you want to build a jet pack, sometimes that means you have to leave the bicycle factory,” she says.

Playing defense

In many ways, the fight to preserve access to abortion is even more daunting than the fight to legalize it 40 years ago. In a dynamic democracy like America, defending the status quo is always harder than fighting to change it. The story of pro-choice activism after Roe reveals that there may be nothing worse for a political movement’s future than achieving its central goal.


The antiabortion cause has been aided by scientific advances that have complicated American attitudes about abortion. Prenatal ultrasound, which has allowed the general public to see fetuses inside the womb and understand that they have a human shape beginning around eight weeks into pregnancy, became widespread in the 1980s, and some babies born as early as 24 weeks can now survive.


Kissling… says the pro-choice movement’s effort to “normalize abortion” is counterproductive. “When people hear us say abortion is just another medical procedure, they react with shock,” she says. “Abortion is not like having your tooth pulled or having your appendix out. It involves the termination of an early form of human life. That deserves some gravitas.”

Aging abortionists

[T]he generation of doctors who stepped up to perform legal abortions after Roe have retired or died without a robust new class of physicians to take their place. Efforts are under way at many obstetrics-gynecology and family-practice residency programs to offer abortion training to more doctors, but the specter of protests and unwanted attention remains.

Mission impossible

Their most pressing goal, 40 years after Roe, is to widen access to a procedure most Americans believe should be restricted – and no one wants to ever need.

I have no clue what this means

These sentences made no sense to me no matter how many times I read them:

The abortion rate in impoverished black communities has remained disproportionately high despite efforts by Planned Parenthood and others to provide access to family-planning services. “What this proves,” says [Loretta] Ross [co-founder of Sister Song], “is that if people are not convinced that they have realistic economic and educational opportunities, you could put a clinic in a girl’s bedroom and she would still think early motherhood is a better choice.”

An African-American girl chooses “early motherhood” over contraceptives and then opts for abortion?

Anyway, there you go. Thoughts?

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