Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2003

Right-to-life victories celebrated

October 23, 2003

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On Capitol Hill, in the Florida statehouse, at the Supreme Court, even in the boardroom of the YWCA, the self-proclaimed right-to-life movement and its conservative allies are on a winning streak that is deeply troubling to abortion-rights advocates.

The latest victories came almost simultaneously -- final congressional approval of a bill banning a late-term abortion procedure and Florida lawmakers' vote empowering Gov. Jeb Bush to order resumed feeding of a woman who has been in a vegetative state since 1990.

"A monumental day for the sanctity of human life," declared the conservative Family Research Council after Tuesday's votes in Washington and Tallahassee, Fla.

However, Dr. David Grimes, a North Carolina physician who formerly headed the abortion surveillance division of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called it "a very sad day."

"Here we have a governor of Florida interfering with a family's choice, and Congress interfering with a woman's right to choose," Grimes said Wednesday. "I thought this administration's role was to get government off people's backs."

The vote in Congress to ban what critics call partial-birth abortion capped a campaign waged by anti-abortion groups since 1995. Many of those same groups became intensely engaged in the battle to prevent medical staff from halting the feeding of Terri Schiavo at the request of her husband.

Senators speak on the floor of the Senate chamber, in this image
from video, after voting to ban the practice that critics call
partial-birth abortion. Tuesday's ban was just one of several
recent victories on issues championed by the right-to-life
movement.

Senators speak on the floor of the Senate chamber, in this image from video, after voting to ban the practice that critics call partial-birth abortion. Tuesday's ban was just one of several recent victories on issues championed by the right-to-life movement.

A hospital began rehydrating the brain-damaged woman Tuesday, and a judge rebuffed a request by the husband, Michael Schiavo, to overturn Bush's order. Terri Schiavo's parents have supported the state's intervention.

The votes in Washington and Florida followed some other recent successes for anti-abortion and conservative groups. Among them:

l The board of the YWCA last week fired Patricia Ireland, a prominent feminist and abortion-rights supporter, as its chief executive. Conservative groups had been campaigning against her since she was appointed six months ago.

l The U.S. Supreme Court this month refused to hear an appeal -- backed by abortion-rights activists -- on behalf of a drug-addicted South Carolina mother who was imprisoned for killing her stillborn child through the use of crack cocaine. Lawyers for Regina McKnight, who acknowledged taking drugs while pregnant, said no other woman has been convicted of homicide after suffering a stillbirth.

Abortion-rights groups generally oppose efforts to increase fetal rights out of fear that new laws might eventually be used to bar abortions. One fetal-rights bill -- the Unborn Victims of Violence Act -- has been introduced in Congress. It's expected to become one of the next priorities for anti-abortion advocates.

The bill would make murder or injury of an unborn child a separate offense during the commission of certain existing federal crimes. Though it exempts abortion, abortion-rights groups nonetheless are alarmed that Congress might, for the first time, recognize a fetus as independent of the expectant mother.

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