While the 'pro-life' movement appears to have gained some momentum of late, abortion activists are concerned that younger women are largely complacent or apathetic on the issue of abortion rights.Abortion still generates enough passion for people to march, picket and publicly demonstrate their commitment.
- Numerous hollywood celebrities have been co-opted as spokepersons for abortion rights.
- Protesters have maintained picketing and prayer vigils outside abortion clinics for decades.
- Surveys reveal that support for abortion is declining, especially among women.
- Fewer doctors are willing to perform abortions.
- The "post-choice" movement are speaking out against the abortion that hurt them, and are demanding that "women deserve better."
Every year in America, hundreds of thousands of opponents of abortion converge on Washington D.C., on the anniversary of the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v Wade decision.
In early 2004, a similar number of women, joined by many Hollywood celebrities, took part in the Women's March for Choice to protect abortion rights.
One aspect of the protests was that media coverage of both events was said to be biased. The numbers present at the March for Choice were said to be inflated, while the March for Life numbers were said to be under-reported.
In Spain, Portugal and Ireland, thousands march for more liberal abortion laws, and thousands march to preserve the status quo.
Opponents of abortion have been protesting for decades, picketing abortion clinics, praying outside clinics and lining roadways in "Life Chains." In the 1980s, hundreds of thousands were mobilised across America in Operation Rescue.
Anti-abortion marches are attracting new and younger activists.
In the early 21st century the protests continue, but there is a noticeable difference. While "anti-abortion" marches are attracting new and younger activists, veteran abortion rights activists are concerned that a perceived apathy in younger women may allow the gains of the 1970s to be overturned.
Surveys in the United States since the late 1990s reveal declining support for legal abortion, especially among women. The Alan Guttmacher Institute also records declining numbers of abortions and providers.( Sources: Princeton Survey Research Associates, Alan Guttmacher Institute, Higher Education Research Institute -University of California)
Abortion advocates in shock
In the 2004 American Presidential elections, abortion advocates across the nation activated their forces in support of the Democratic candidate John Kerry. Although he claims to be "personally opposed to abortion," his opponents point out that Kerry has had a consistent record of voting in favour of abortion and embryonic stem cell research.
The media swung in behind Kerry's campaign and anyone who believed them thought that Kerry was sure to win.
The mainstream media swung in behind Kerry's campaign and anyone who believed the media thought that Kerry was sure to win.
When the votes were counted and it was obvious Bush had retained the Presidency. One upset Democratic supporter was heard to remark to a reporter, "What's the matter with people, don't they read the newspapers?" The implication being that if they had, they wouldn't have voted for Bush.
Maybe they do read the papers and watch the television, but with the increasing use of the Internet, people are seemingly relying on other information that is ignored by the mainstream media.
The media has an largely liberal bias that tends to dismiss those opposed to the causes they espouse - such as abortion - labelling them "right-wing ultra-conservative puritans." In their dismissal of this portion of the population they have overlooked an important factor. A factor that probably cost Kerry the election.
The often overlooked factor in the "abortion war" is that church-going families tend to have more children, and in general are more likely to be opposed to abortion. Children are often influenced by strongly-held beliefs of their parents, and many of these "children" voted in the 2004 election.
Feminists and abortion advocates acknowledge that they have a problem with younger women espousing the cause of abortion. It has been noted that the most reliable supporters of abortion rights are now women over 50.
Abortion advocates are asking themselves why young women are not more interested in fighting to keep abortion legal.
In 2005 the National Abortion Rights Action League (now NARAL Pro Choice America) decided, instead of the Marches they have held in previous years, to have a letter writing campaign directed at President Bush. Opponents surmise that the reason for this is because numbers for the 2004 March were less than the abortion advocates expected.
At a time when opponents to abortion are making some progress in restricting access to abortion (partial-birth abortion ban, parental notification laws, the born alive protection act and the unborn victims of violence law), advocates are asking themselves why young women are not more interested in fighting to keep abortion legal.
On March30, 2003 the New York Times printed an article entitled "Surprise, Mom: I'm Anti-Abortion." The article pointed out that more and more young people, including those born to "pro-choice" parents, are identifying themselves as pro-life.
The reporter, Elizabeth Hayt, revealed a significant change in thinking between their parents' generation and their own. "A student who opposes abortion, and who says her views are more conservative than those of her parents, put her argument succinctly: 'It's more about the baby's rights than the woman's rights.'"
The results of a spring 2004 U.S. Zogby poll bear this out. Asked if they were pro-life or pro-choice, 51.6% of 18-29-year-olds responded "pro-life." It is notable that young people are choosing to call themselves "pro-life," seeing "life" as the issue rather than "choice."
Nearly 3 out of 4 in the 18-29-year-old age group (72.6%) thought abortion should only be legal, at most, in the cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is in danger.
The "post-choice" protestors
Many of the new protestors who are actively seeking to abolish, or at least restrict access to abortion, are women who used to regard themselves as "pro-choice" ...until they themselves had an abortion. These women are being called the "post-choice" movement.
The Women Deserve Better campaign intends to refocus the debate about abortion — by challenging feminists to tell the truth
Organisations such as NARAL Pro Choice America, Planned Parenthood, the National Organization of Women, as well as various medical groups, continue to deny that abortion has any significant negitive effects. Late-term abortionist Warren Hern, for instance, has reassured women that "psychological studies consistently show that women who are basically healthy can adjust to any outcome of pregnancy."
Groups such as Silent No More have women who have testified that they have experienced psychological trauma following their abortion. Interestingly, most of the women who now hold "I Regret my Abortion" signs at Marches once said that their abortion caused them no problem at all. Actress and model Jennifer O'Neill and actress Patricia Heaton of Everybody Loves Raymond, are just two of the many women who have publically testified how their abortion has impacted on their lives.
The Women Deserve Better campaign is a project is sponsored by a coalition of groups in the U.S. Their idea is to refocus the debate about abortion - by challenging feminists to tell the truth about how abortion hurts women.
The 'silent' protest
One group who are impacting on the increasing availability of abortion services are young doctors who don't want to have anything to do with it. Doctors wanting to specialise in Obstetrics/Gynaecology who personally have no objection to abortion, are reluctant to perform abortions.
"If you do 12 in a row, it can make you feel bad," said one resident. "No matter how pro-choice you are, it makes you feel low." Another resident said, "I guess I never realized I would find it as unpleasant as I do. I really don't enjoy it [at] all. It's not a rewarding thing to do."
Many doctors see abortion as a 'dead end' rather than a career objective and hospitals are finding it harder and harder to find doctors willing to perform abortions.