Communications Department

Press Conference: Statement of Wanda Franz, Ph.D., NRLC President

Jan 22, 2004 | 2004 Press Releases

Press Conference Statement by
President, National Right to Life Committee

January 22, 2004

Today we take note of a shameful anniversary.  On this date, 31 years ago, the United States Supreme Court, for all practical purposes, legalized abortion on demand.  The twin decisions of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton invalidated all state laws prohibiting abortion.

Although Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton have routinely been misrepresented as a compromise between contending positions on abortion, their radical sweep has been evident for years.  For example, on June 8, 1982, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee observed: “No significant barriers of any kind whatsoever exist today in the United States for a woman to obtain an abortion for any reason during any stage of her pregnancy.”

On June 28, 2000, the Supreme Court ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart that Nebraska’s law outlawing partial-birth abortions is unconstitutional.  So far, this is the full meaning of “choice” under Roe v. Wade.

Last year the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act became law with President Bush’s signature.  The legislation was carefully crafted and based on extensive findings by the Congress.  The Supreme Court has now an opportunity to retreat from the extreme position it took in Stenberg v. Carhart.  Our hope is that the non-elected Court will do so and return to the elected legislative and executive branches the right to set social policy.

The Supreme Court’s tendency to legislate from the bench in matters of social policy has not yet been effectively checked by the elected branches of government.  Hence, it is not surprising that Roe v. Wade and its progeny have survived in spite of all their glaring deficiencies.  But the days of Roe are numbered: the number of abortions is down and the support for abortion rights has eroded.

According to the Planned Parenthood-affiliated Alan Guttmacher Institute, the number of abortions peaked at 1.61 million in 1990.  Even though the number of women of childbearing age has continued to rise, the number of abortions has decreased since then to about 1.31 million in 2000, the latest year for which there are data.   This is an 18.6% drop.  Over the same time span, the rate of abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age has decreased from 27 to 21 according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute.  That is a 22.2% drop.

This swing to the pro-life side has several origins.  For one thing, women of the post-Roe generation understand too well what legalized abortion does.  Also, in recent years prenatal sonograms have become routine.  It is no longer possible to deny that an abortion kills a fellow member of the human family.  Of course, during the past 31 years pro-life groups have become better organized and gained strength.  In particular, NRLC’s campaign to ban partial-birth abortions has redirected the abortion debate away from the dishonest slogans of “choice” and “who decides” and refocused the public’s attention onto what actually happens in an abortion: The “choice” to procure an abortion results in a dead child.

The shift towards the pro-life position is evident in public opinion polls.  For example, last June the Center for the Advancement of Women, an organization headed by former Planned Parenthood president Faye Wattleton, released a study by Princeton Survey Research Associates about the attitudes of women.  The study revealed this:   Thirty percent of women hold that “abortion should generally be available to those who want it” and 17% say that “abortion should be available but under stricter limits than it is now.”Thirty-four percent of women say that “abortion should be against the law except in case of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother.”  And 17% hold that “abortion should not be permitted at all.”

The trends in the pro-life direction have been in place over several years now.  We at NRLC are confident that in the long run we will succeed in securing the right to life for all members of the human family.