40 Years After Roe v. Wade, Abortion Foes March On

A nationwide push to limit abortions has taken many forms, among them "personhood amendments" and protests against Planned Parenthood

Tuesday, Jan 22, 2013  |  Updated 1:54 PM EDT
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40 Years After Roe v. Wade, Abortion Foes March On

AP - FILE

Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. In this Monday, Jan. 24, 2011 file picture, anti-abortion and pro-choice activists stand next to each other in front of the Supreme Court in Washington during a rally on the 38th anniversary of the decision.

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Abortion opponents are marking the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling Tuesday with a push for more restrictions after a string of legislative victories have narrowed access to the procedure.

The 1973 Supreme Court's 7-to-2 decision established the constitutional right to abortion, and though recent polling shows that the nation has reached a tipping point in favor of the procedure, foes are far from surrendering.

Hundreds of anti-abortion activists are gathering Tuesday in Topeka for workshops and prayer services. They also plan a rally outside the Kansas Statehouse featuring Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican who signed tough, new anti-abortion laws during his first two years in office.

Kansas has been a key state in the battle over the controversial procedure. It was in Wichita, Kansas, just 150 miles southwest of Topeka, in 2009 that the fight against abortion took a deadly turn. That year, Dr. George Tiller, one of the very few doctors in the nation to perform late-term abortions, was gunned down at his church.

Tiller's family closed the clinic following his murder, but now, three years later, Julie Burkhart of the Trust Women Foundation hopes to reopen it this spring. Burkhart worked with Tiller's clinic for eight years on political and legislative issues.

"We will continue to move forward to see that women have their rights," Burkhart told Reuters. "It's incredibly important because women in this region need access to good medical care."

Meanwhile, the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life plans to ask state lawmakers to enact legislation ensuring Kansas doesn't finance abortions, even indirectly, through tax breaks.

While the abortion battle rages on in Kansas, there are other battlegrounds, too. Last year a total of 19 states passed 43 provisions to restrict access to abortion, according to the reproductive rights organization the Guttmacher Institute.

"The laws that have been passed, in the last couple of years especially, really make women walk through a gauntlet to get abortions, throughout the country," said Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood.

There was even a protest during President Obama's inauguration — an anti-abortion protester climbed 40 feet up into a tree along the parade route. Witnesses said the protester, Rives Miller Grogan, was protesting Planned Parenthood and abortion, calling the president the Antichrist and talking about how Democrats need to find Jesus.

In Texas on Monday, Gov. Rick Perry made it known that he hopes to "make abortion at any stage a thing of the past."

This year Perry intends to introduce a so-called "fetal pain bill," which is based on the claim that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks. Under current law, states can only ban abortions after 24 weeks. Similar bills have already been blocked by courts in Georgia, Oklahoma and Arizona.

Just last week, Virginia's Republican-dominated Senate committee narrowly voted against a bill that would have barred state-funded abortions for poor women carrying mortally deformed fetuses. It blocked an effort to repeal Virginia's year-old laws mandating pre-abortion ultrasound exams and to hold abortion clinics to the same architectural regulations as new hospitals.

Republican state Sen. Tom Garrett, who sponsored the bill to deny state funding of abortions for women with little or no chance of delivering babies that can survive, says he sought not to restrict access, only money.

“There's been much talk about the limiting of access,” Garrett said. “I ask you at what point the term access became something paid for by someone else?”

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