Abortion rights leader warns of 'backdoor' efforts


WASHINGTON -- Defenders of women's right to choose abortion are stronger than a year ago, but 'backdoor' attempts to outlaw the procedure remain dangerous, a pro-choice leader said Thursday.

Faye Wattleton, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said anti-abortion forces appear to be frustrated in their efforts, but, 'We must always take seriously any effort to restrict our freedom.'


At the same time, anti-abortion forces began gathering in Washington for their ninth annual 'March for Life' and lobbying effort aimed at passage of a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion.

'March for Life' organizer Nellie Gray said the 'real hard news' about Friday's demonstration 'is that thousands of pro-lifers continue to make an annual witness for life ... (so) the world will continue to know that abortion is an abomination and that there is a strong pro-life voice of the citizenry to stop this American holocaust.'


The march traditionally brings some 10,000 demonstrators, including large numbers of parochial school children, to the capital on the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision striking down most anti-abortion legislation.

Focus of this year's effort is what Mrs. Gray calls the 'Paramount 'Unity' Human Life Amendment,' sponsored by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., which would 'assure that the paramount right to life of each human being, born and preborn from fertilization, is protected without regard to age, health or condition of dependency.'

At least 27 bills limiting or banning abortion have been introduced in the current session of Congress.

But Ms. Wattleton told a breakfast session with reporters: 'We are in better shape than we were a year ago. In 1980 there was a perception that there was a mandate from the country on these (social) issues, but we have seen that was not true.'

Ms. Wattleton singled as particularly dangerous a proposal by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to allow Congress and the individual states to write their own anti-abortion laws.

'Since this amendment does not outlaw abortion outright, anti-choice groups believe it has a better chance of passage than the more direct amendments that have been introduced in the past,' she said.


'The Hatch Amendment is a dangerous and deceitful piece of legislation,' she said. 'It is a backdoor approach to banning all abortions ... (and is) clearly unenforceable.'

But, she said, 'We have no sense from the White House that they are going to make any massive effort to support the Hatch amendment.'

'It depends on how radical (the law) is. If somebody wants to outlaw abortion, I'd rather they just fight for that,' the physician said. 'This has so many other ramifications. When you see a 16-year-old or 17-year-old die because she's been to some back-street abortionist ... that's tragic.'

Sweeney said the laws would open up legal questions about normal medical practice.

'There are decisions to be made in labor and delivery -- medical reasons why we would want to deliver a baby prior to term for safety to the mother. Right now the decision is bad enough medically. If we also had to make the decision legally, its effect will be to delay the important decision ... until the mother's condition is so bad she and the baba0 1 (P w rhoPjWwWyWv9:6ranted. Doctors delay all the time in making those decisions.

'Allegations that this would impede medical care are relative nonsense,' he said. 'Most practicing obstetricians grew up and practiced in the climate where abortions were prohibited except to save the life of the mother. This is not an experiment. The biological evidence for the humanity of the unborn is clear and overwhelming. We can't allow national policy to be based on the 'Alice in Wonderland' view that the unborn is not human, not a living individual.'


Sweeney said medication that would routinely be given to pregnant women might be withheld because of fears it could affect an unborn infant.

'If a woman has a condition such as epilepsy which requires the use of medication, there is a slightly increased chance of cleft lip and other deformities in unborn babies. But if the mother is subject to seizures, how do you make the decision? It leaves the door wide open.'

Shearin said Helms' bill 'formally recognizes that human life begins at conception. It applies the 14th amendment to that human life. It does not exclude due process from mothers, but allows for due process for the human life within mother.

'People who are most vocal proponents of abortion on demand are usually connected either emotionally or financially with the abortion industry,' he said.

Sweeney said doctors could also delay treating a woman who entered a hospital with a miscarriage, since her pregnancy tests would be positive.

'We know it's not a viable pregnancy, but it would take a week or 10 days before the woman's tests are no longer positive. In that time, she would lose blood, and be subject to infection. It would cause unnecessary delays and greater risks for the mothers.'


Sweeney also said a ban on abortions would not stop them.

'Just outlawing abortions will not eliminate them. I think there's going to be probably more now that there have been abortion clinics (than prior to 1973). People who have worked in those clinics, who have seen how 'easy' it is' would start illegal clinics without proper medical training, he said.

Shearin argued that legalizing abortions in 1973 did not stop illegal abortion clinics.

'Legalizing abortions did not stop illegal abortions or illegal abortion deaths. In 1967, 167 women died across the country because of illegal abortions, not 10,000. Now there are a million-and-a-half children dying. Over 250 children die in Memphis each week alone. Infanticide is a reality. Women should have choices over their own body. But the unborn child is not their body.'

Sweeney said in case of rape, the laws would ban the use of medical methods that could keep a woman from getting pregnant. One out of every 100 women raped becomes pregnant from her attacker, he said.

But Shearin contended methods that prevent ovulation following an attack could still be used to prevent pregnancy.

'Any compassionate human being wants to alleviate the problems of the woman. If she's raped, they would have society believe that killing the child conceived in the act of rape would somehow make the woman better. The pro-life movement believes we should help the woman cope with unborn life rather than kill it.'


Sweeney said the proposed laws are unclear about the criminal liability of a mother who knows smoking or drinking is detrimental to a baby, but continues to do both. Pre-natal diagnosis would also be affected, he said, in that women would be unable to terminate pregnancies if a fetus has severe deformities or a fatal disease.

Shearin said such problems should be addressed 'in a life-preserving way.' 'The problem comes in people who know they have it (a disease). They are misled by pro-abortionists into thinking that it (pregnancy) doesn't count. 'If it's not normal, we can have an abortion.' Tests for genetic handicaps are done in mid-trimester, 18 to 24 weeks after conception. At this stage of life the child can certainly respond to pain, can hear, organs are formed ... I don't think it's a compassionate choice to kill the handicapped unborn.'

Sweeney said the question was more complex.

'Tay-Sachs is a terminal illness in which the child usually dies before the age of 4. Those years are filled with seizure-coma, seizure-coma, and finally death. To not be able to spare the family that...

'All these things are going to set women back centuries.'

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