Abortion´s New Fights -- and Fallout

U.S. Legislation, a Shrinking Russia, and Fewer Girls in India

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NEW YORK, MAY 5, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The fights over abortion continue -- as does its fallout.



In the United States the battle over abortion shows no sign of letting up. Both pro-abortion and pro-life groups are intensifying their efforts to influence the Bush administration. In the first big test on life issues in the new Congress, the House of Representatives last week passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, 252-172.

The legislation, which still faces a Senate test, would make it a federal crime to kill or injure an unborn baby during an attack on a pregnant woman. Abortion advocates oppose the bill because they see it as a first step toward legally defining an unborn baby as a person. More than 20 states have similar laws that protect unborn children. The House measure would apply only to crimes within federal jurisdiction.

Similar legislation was passed in the House last year but stalled in the Senate because of a veto threat from then President Bill Clinton. However, President George W. Bush has indicated he supports this pro-life bill. "This legislation affirms our commitment to a culture of life, which welcomes and protects children," Bush declared.

Prospects for a ban on partial-birth abortion are less promising. During the election campaign, Bush declared his willingness to sign such a ban. Clinton twice vetoed such a measure. But after the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down a Nebraska law prohibiting partial-birth abortions, pro-lifers are split over whether it is worth trying to pursue new legislation.

The Los Angeles Times on March 18 quoted Senator Rick Santorum, who has sponsored the ban in the past, as saying, "The Supreme Court´s decision pretty well closes the door to anything as far as trying to restrict any sort of abortion procedure."

Pro-life clinics

Pro-life activists are not only seeking to change laws; they are also busy offering options to pregnant women in the hope of persuading them to spare their unborn babies´ lives.

The Chicago Sun-Times on March 25 reported on the efforts of 3,000 crisis pregnancy centers in the United States. Unlike the abortion clinics run by groups such as Planned Parenthood, none of the crisis centers charges a fee to the women they help.

These centers offer the women a range of goods and services -- from clothing, housing and employment, to emotional support. They also help with medical expenses and adoption services. All of this is paid for by private donations.

In contrast, almost 1.4 million abortions are performed in the United States each year, at an average fee of around $300. States such as California and New York, by means of Medicaid, pay for up to half of all abortions. But they don´t pay for the services of crisis pregnancy centers.

Pro-abortion campaign

In order to shore up pro-abortion opinion, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) has announced a $40 million campaign. A NARAL press release of March 28 said the four-year campaign, called "Fight4Choice," aims to stop what it calls an "unprecedented, GOP-led assault on abortion rights."

The press release said Fight4Choice seeks to "mobilize pro-choice Americans to block anti-choice Supreme Court appointments, restore pro-choice leadership in Congress, elect a pro-choice president and fight anti-choice policy initiatives at every level." The campaign will utilize direct mail, grass-roots organizing, outreach and paid advertising.

Meanwhile, a Planned Parenthood-backed group is promoting the teaching of abortion techniques in medical schools. Medical Students for Choice, founded in 1993, now has 110 active chapters and 7,000 members in the United States and Canada, according to the May 7 issue of Time magazine. Since its founding, the group estimates that about 50, or one-third of all medical schools, have introduced abortion or brought it back into their curriculums, either through mandatory course work, elective classes, lectures or Planned Parenthood rotations.

About 2,000 doctors now perform abortions in the United States, and most are in their 50s and 60s. Abortion advocates fear that when these doctors retire or die, no one will replace them.

Switzerland´s 8-year fight

The abortion debate is not limited to the United States, of course. In March the Swiss Parliament voted to legalize abortion, after a debate that lasted eight years. The centrist Christian People´s Party immediately challenged the decision and announced it would collect the 100,000 signatures necessary under Swiss law to force a referendum, the Associated Press reported March 23. That would prevent the law from taking effect before the national vote, which is unlikely to be held for several years.

Abortion has been technically illegal but widely practiced in Switzerland. In most cities, it is relatively easy for a woman to get an abortion in state-run hospitals or private clinics, provided she has a signed letter from a second doctor stating that there are sound medical reasons.

In Russia, the yearly toll of 2.1 million abortions exceeds the number of live births. About 350 women "become invalids, and some 250 women died last year as a result of abortions," said Russia´s chief gynecologist, Vladimir Serov, according an Agence France-Presse report March 21.

The Russian population has declined by 2.8 million over the past eight years, and is expected to fall by 700,000 this year, to 144.5 million inhabitants.

In India, meanwhile, abortion is being used to selectively target females. Even though India outlawed sex-determination tests in 1994, their use has become commonplace as ultrasound technology has spread to small towns, the New York Times reported April 22.

Early figures from the 2001 census indicate that female fetuses are regularly being aborted, continuing a marked trend from the 1980s. The number of girls per 1,000 boys dropped to 927 this year, from 945 in 1991 and 962 in 1981.

The girl-boy ratio has widened in the richest states of the north and west, where more people can afford tests and abortions, say demographers and economists. In Punjab, India´s most prosperous farming state, the ratio has plummeted to 793 girls per 1,000 boys, from 875 a decade ago. All of which hints that abortion could unleash a new set of problems in the future.