No Compromising on Abortion
Of Counsel, Spring 2003
Message from our President Nancy NorthupThe recent Senate debate over the proposed federal abortion ban provided another reminder of how ugly anti-choice rhetoric has become. In their attempt to paint the pro-choice movement as “extreme” the bill’s proponents pulled out all the stops, from using graphic descriptions and pictures, to equating Roe v. Wade with the Dred Scott decision, to suggesting that the legalization of abortion has led to increases in the rates of divorce, domestic violence and infanticide. While this over-the-top language turns off most people, it threatens to erode pro-choice support among Americans who think about these issues only occasionally.Unfortunately, it is not only anti-choice activists who try to marginalize the pro-choice position. With increasing frequency, pundits—including those who purport to be pro-choice—characterize the battle over abortion rights as one of opposing extremes. They argue for “compromise,” for accepting abortion bans, parental involvement laws and other government regulations that decrease women’s access to abortion. Their justification is public opinion polls.We believe that a public that is truly informed about the health and life costs of such regulations would not support them. But more importantly, these calls for compromise misunderstand the nature of fundamental rights. The right to abortion, like other constitutional rights, exists to protect against the “tyranny of the majority.” This privacy right cannot be based on polls any more than could the First Amendment right to speak or to worship, or not worship, as one’s conscience dictates.It is also important to remember that our opponents are not interested in compromise—their agenda, which they have pursued single-mindedly since 1973, includes opposition to abortion, contraception and sexuality education. Their ulterior motives surfaced on the Senate floor last month, when the abortion ban’s supporters rejected an amendment that would have increased access to contraception.In the face of both the relentless anti-choice campaign and the call to “compromise and move on,” we must stand united to oppose the notion that our position is extreme. Our commitment to reproductive rights—including the right to abortion, to contraception and to safe pregnancy—is a commitment to an ideal imbedded in both our Constitution and international human rights norms.As partners in our work, you help protect the principles we share both by speaking out against the calls for “compromise” and by supporting this organization. Through this partnership, we can and will guarantee that our ideals become a reality for women everywhere.