Witness the recent contentious debate over health care reform. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., led the charge in the House of Representatives, saying that the effort to overhaul the nation's health care system could be derailed over the issue of abortion.
He won last-minute approval of the Stupak Amendment, co-sponsored by Pennsylvania's own Rep. Joe Pitts, which barred federal funding of abortion under health care reform. The amendment garnered broad support in Congress, signaling that, despite the efforts of the abortion lobby to mainstream the practice, lawmakers are still skittish about forcing the government to subsidize abortion.
And there is strong evidence to suggest that a majority of the American public feels the same way. According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released in November, 61 percent of the Americans surveyed supported a ban on public funding of abortion. Perhaps even more telling, 51 percent of respondents said that women should pay the full cost of abortion, even if they carry private health insurance and there is no federal money involved.
But the financial aspect is not the only reason abortion remains an issue for debate.
Real-time ultrasound has demonstrated the humanity of the pre-born child. The baby in the womb is no longer hidden from the view of the American public. Ultrasound pictures are shared in e-mails and posted on Facebook. In the decades since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, a new face has emerged in the discussion about abortion: the face of the unborn child.
There is also the body of scientific research that has been developed since the 1970s, showing how abortion hurts women. Studies have linked abortion to subsequent substance abuse, sexual disorders, suicidal thoughts, and sleep disorders. Research has also indicated a link between abortion and higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety disorders.
And then there are the stories told by women who came to regret their abortions. As the actress and model Jennifer O'Neill said at a congressional briefing, "I was told a lie from the pit of hell -- that my baby was just a blob of tissue."
O'Neill also stated, "I had the abortion and paid for it all my life until I healed and am now able to help other women."
Groups such as the Silent No More Awareness Campaign (www.silentnomoreawareness.org ) have empowered women to boldly proclaim the truth -- that they were emotionally scarred by abortion, and that they don't want other women to suffer the same fate. In many cases, these women were pressured by boyfriends, husbands, or parents to abort. Research indicates that more than 60 percent of abortions may be coerced -- meaning that it's likely that most women are having abortions they don't even want.
It's even been said that forced abortions in America are a hidden epidemic. Consider the 13-year-old girl who was forced to return to her abuser after her abortion ... a young woman who was forced into an abortion center at gunpoint by her mother ... or the woman who, when she refused to abort, had to endure her husband jumping on her stomach until she miscarried.
The stereotype is that a woman is exercising her freedom when she undergoes an abortion, but the reality in a number of cases is that she is living the nightmare of someone else's choice.
The issue of abortion was not settled in 1973. It won't be until every pre-born child and the mother who carries that child have full protection under the law.
-- Maria Vitale is the edu cation director of the Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation.