News: CJ Exclusives

Pro-Lifers Mark Anniversary of Abortion Ruling

More than 1,000 activists march in Raleigh days before Obama inauguration

Pro-life activists gathered in downtown Raleigh recently to mark the 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that found a constitutional right to abortion.

The rally was conducted Saturday, three days before Barack Obama, a supporter of abortion access, was inaugurated in Washington, D.C.

“The Obama presidency threatens to cause a delay in [our] quest, but pro-lifers like you don’t give up, and we will succeed in this,” Wanda Franz, president of the National Right to Life Committee, told more than 1,000 pro-lifers who braved below-freezing temperatures to rally in Nash Square.

Speakers criticized Obama’s voting record and policy goals on abortion, particularly his support for the federal Freedom of Choice Act. The bill, which has never been voted out of committee, would overturn all state-level restrictions on abortion.

“The purpose of this terrible piece of proposed legislation is to undo all pro-life laws anywhere in our country, including any that have been passed in your states,” Franz said. “In President-elect Obama, our opponents have found their champion.”

Economic issues trumped other domestic concerns during the 2008 election cycle, polls showed. But a survey commissioned by the NRLC found that 25 percent of those who based their vote on the abortion issue identified as pro-life, compared with 9 percent who identified as pro-choice.

Franz pointed out the movement’s legislative gains since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, including the federal ban on partial-birth abortion and state-level parental consent laws.

“The most likely explanation for the decline of the abortion rate lies in the work of the right-to-life movement and women’s own re-evaluation of abortion,” she said. “The abortion rate started to decline after the pro-life movement organized itself and gained critical mass in 1980.”

Pro-life students from area universities also attended. One of them, Ashley Tyndall, a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill and president of Students for Life America, said abortion proponents are targeting young people in disproportionate numbers.

“It’s time for people my age to stand up and demand better for ourselves,” she said. “Demand better for our friends, our family, our peers. We’re not too young, we’re not too cool, we’re not too busy to do work in this movement.”

While many observers expect abortion restrictions to be rescinded under an Obama administration, some pro-lifers also foresee a tough battle at the state level. “The General Assembly has not been very favorable to our legislation over the last couple of sessions, not since 1997 when we were able to get something through one of the legislative bodies,” said Barbara Holt, president of North Carolina Right to Life.

The General Assembly’s power structure remained mostly unchanged after the 2008 election. Democrats hold a 68-52 seat majority in the House and a 30-20 seat majority in the Senate.

“We’re going to be watching for legislation that the other side might want to put forward that would expand abortion in North Carolina,” Holt said. “We’re going to try to pass some legislation, but keep an eye out for bills that would make things worse for unborn children.”

David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.