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Abortion rulings Courts decide: Increasingly they are rejecting assaults on rights outlined in Roe vs. Wade.


ANOTHER WEEK, another decision on abortion rights, and another ruling upholding the essential basis for Roe vs. Wade.

A federal judge Tuesday struck down a New Jersey statute that would have banned late-term abortions. The judge said the law threatened "a woman's constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy."

The law would have allowed the state to fine doctors and take their licenses for performing the procedure. "It is in the public interest to prevent the act from taking effect, and thereby protect a woman's right to choose," the judge said.

In recent months, judges in at least 10 other jurisdictions have reached similar conclusions as abortion opponents attempt to use the procedure that they label "partial-birth abortion" as the latest tactic to chip away all of Roe.

Anti-abortion activists protest and picket at clinics, as is their constitutional right. Sometimes, though, demonstrations get out of hand; some extremists bomb clinics, a few kill doctors and workers.

Those who suffer most as clinics close and workers are intimidated are poor women who use those services in higher numbers than middle- and upper-income women. On that ground, increasingly, state courts are upholding local privacy and equal rights statutes to allow the poor access to abortions.

It was a little pill -- THE pill -- that nearly 40 years ago played a role in the sexual revolution that helped launch us to where we are today. Perhaps, another pill, RU-486, a drug that ends pregnancy without surgery, will help lift us out of our present morass.

The drug, expected to be approved next year by the federal government, is credited with reducing the number of abortions substantially in France and Scotland.

The debate won't cease, but maybe the tension and violence will be diminished and the court battles less necessary.

Pub Date: 12/12/98

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