Abortion Camps Gear Up for Battle

THE war has only just begun. With the Supreme Court's decision to accept a Missouri law restricting abortions - but not to overturn outright the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide - both sides in the debate are gearing up to do intense battle, particularly at the state level.

In the immediate aftermath of Monday's ruling, both sides said they needed to analyze the court's decision before setting specific strategies. But already, the broad outlines of the pro-choice and anti-abortion camps' plans are taking shape.

For the foes of abortion, the task is easier: just ``keep doing what we've done for the past 16 years,'' says Susan Smith, associate legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee.

That, she adds, means ``educating people on the medical, ethical, and social facts of abortion, and lobbying elected state and federal lawmakers on the need to protect all human life.''

Already, opponents of abortion around the country have been preparing new state laws to restrict abortion - some of them modeled after the Missouri law and some even tougher.

The Missouri law forbids public employees from assisting in abortions, bans the use of public hospitals or clinics for abortions, and may require viability tests for fetuses 20 weeks old or older. With most state legislatures in recess, no immediate action is expected, but divisive battles are anticipated all over the country later this year.

Eleanor Smeal, president of the pro-choice Fund for the Feminist Majority, notes that seven states have ``trigger laws'' - laws that would immediately ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were overturned. Of those seven, five have Democratic-controlled legislatures. Another 20 states, 11 of which are Democratic controlled, would restrict or ban abortion, she adds. Twenty-four governors oppose abortion, she says.

``We are going to look at every statehouse,'' she continues, articulating her organization's strategy. ``And in our opinion, the 1990 elections are only the beginning, because it will not be just statehouses at issue here. It will be [district attorneys]; it will be county commissions; it will be city councils; it will be mayors; and indeed it will be congressional seats and the presidency itself.''

ORGANIZERS on both sides are also offering their followers tips on how to argue their positions and stage legal, peaceful protests.

At a National Right to Life Committee convention last weekend, participants spoke of the need to improve the anti-abortion movement's image movement by distancing it from extremists who bomb clinics and physically harass women seeking abortions. In an apparent effort at image-building, anti-abortion crusader Olivia Gans spoke out for better child care, greater accountability on the part of fathers, and better working conditions for mothers.

At a press conference on Monday, Randall Terry, director of the controversial Operation Rescue, announced continued blockades of abortion clinics. He also pledged to ``launch an equal force'' against state legislatures.

So far, neither side has pinpointed which states will be the first key battlegrounds.

But Irene Natividad, head of the National Women's Political Caucus, identified California, Arizona, Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Iowa as the ``hot states'' - states where the legislatures pivot on just a few votes when abortion is at issue.

New York is also expected to be a major focus for activity, precisely because it is seen as one of the strongest in favor of choice.

If the right to an abortion is increasingly restricted over time, a possible scenario given the makeup of the Supreme Court and President Bush's expected opportunity to add more conservative justices, New York may become one of the last states where women have broad abortion rights.

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