Douglas Johnson and Carol Tobias

Excerpts from a Monitor breakfast on the state of the anti-abortion battle

Douglas Johnson has been the National Right to Life Committee's legislative director since 1981. He is widely credited with playing an influential role in the passage of last year's Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.

Carol Tobias is political director of the National Right to Life Committee, which she joined in 1991. Before that, for six years she was executive director of North Dakota Right to Life.

On the impact of President Bush's pro-life position:

(Johnson) "It is the difference between night and day to have a pro-life president. That doesn't mean we are on Easy Street, because we still have a very difficult arena in the Senate...the Senate this past March voted again on endorsement of Roe versus Wade...it passed with 53 senators in support."

On Democratic candidates' position on abortion:

(Tobias) "We see people come our way and they really are uncomfortable with the way abortion is performed in this country -- being allowed basically as another method of birth control. .... The Democratic candidates are out there very loudly proclaiming their positions, pandering to the voters that they already have. They are not reaching mainstream America, middle America, the mushy middle on the abortion issue with their rhetoric. They are not reaching them."

On the next abortion-related issue before Congress:

(Johnson) "The legislative issue that is most on our minds right now is the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. This is a bill which the House has passed twice - in 1999 and 2001 - that the Senate has never taken up, either this bill or anything else on the same subject. What the bill would do is recognize an unborn child as a legal victim if she or he is injured or killed during the commission of a federal crime of violence...the bill is opposed vehemently by the pro-abortion advocacy groups, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, ACLU primarily. They opposed it even though it explicitly excludes abortion...So the outcome is in doubt on that legislation in the Senate. We are hopeful given the 80 to 10 polls, given the involvement in the issue of ....the mother of Laci Peterson..."

On how the press treats abortion foes:

(Johnson)"There is a pretty widespread perspective that, in general terms, as a broad generalization, the institutional news media has it in for them and is much more sympathetic to the perspective of the other side on abortion-related issues. ...as someone who has done this full time for more than 20 years, I think there is a lot of validity to that. It is a broad generalization, it is by no means universal and in some respects it is not as bad as it used to be...the aspect of it that is most troublesome is not specific factual inaccuracies or terminology, although they can be troublesome and skewed at times. But it is an often-found willingness to accept the other sides proposition of what the issue is at any given point in time..."

On media myths about the abortion issue:

(Johnson) "Another of these myths frequently repeated in the recent past is that the Supreme Court is divided 5 to 4 on Roe versus Wade, that President Bush, if he makes a single appointment, Roe versus Wade could be overturned. Well, I wish that that were so but it is demonstrably not so ....it is 6 to 3 in favor of Roe. Now it is 5 to 4 on the issue of 'partial-birth' abortion. ...what we would hope to see is a more sophisticated type of approach to where the public really is on these policy issues..."

On the National Right to Life Committee's opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia:

(Johnson) "We don't think the medical professional should be enlisted in the practice of killing at all...it is physician- assisted suicide using federally-controlled drugs. We have a problem with each part of that and so does the AMA [American Medical Association] and a lot of other people who don't agree with us on the abortion issue. You are changing the traditional role of the physician in a profound way when you start licensing them to kill even when it is ostensibly on the patient's wishes and pretty soon you have the exercise by surrogates...."

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