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Issue Summary: Abortion


Nat'l Organization For Women Marks Roe V. Wade Anniversary At Supreme Court
Brendan Hoffman/Stringer/Getty Images News/Getty Images


Most polls suggest that Americans, by a slim majority, call themselves "pro-choice" rather than "pro-life." That does not mean, however, that everyone who is "pro-choice" believes that abortion is acceptable under any circumstance. A majority support at least minor restrictions, which the Court found reasonable as well under Roe.

Thus the pro-choice faction contains a range of beliefs -- from no restrictions (the classic position) to restrictions for minors (parental consent) ... from support when a woman's life is endangered or when the pregnancy is the result of rape to opposition just because a woman is poor or unmarried.

Principle organizations include the Center for Reproductive Rights, The National Organization for Women (NOW), National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Planned Parenthood, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.


The "pro-life" movement is thought of as more black-and-white in its range of opinions than the "pro-choice" faction. Those who support "life" are more concerned with the embryo or fetus and believe that abortion is murder. Gallup polls starting in 1975 consistently show that only a minority of Americans (12-19 percent) believe that all abortions should be banned.

Nevertheless, "pro-life" groups have taken a strategic approach to their mission, lobbying for mandated waiting periods, prohibitions on public funding and denial of public facilities.

In addition, some sociologists suggest that abortion has become a symbol of the changing status of women in society and of changing sexual mores. In this context, "pro-life" supporters may reflect a backlash against the women's movement.

Principle organizations include the Catholic Church, Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, and National Right to Life Committee.

Where It Stands

President George W. Bush supported and signed the constitutionally questionable "partial-birth" abortion ban and, as Governor of Texas, vowed to put an end to abortion. Immediately after taking office, Bush eliminated U.S. funding to any international family planning organization that provided abortion counseling or services -- even if they did so with private funds.

There was no easily-accessed issue statement about abortion on the 2004 candidate web site. However, in an editorial entitled "The War Against Women" the New York Times wrote:
    The lengthening string of anti-choice executive orders, regulations, legal briefs, legislative maneuvers, and key appointments emanating from his administration suggests that undermining the reproductive freedom essential to women's health, privacy and equality is a major preoccupation of his administration - second only, perhaps, to the war on terrorism.
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