Cover Story

Back to basics

"Back to basics" Continued...

Issue: "Back to basics," Nov. 28, 1992

Tucci cited one Impact Team applicant, a business executive with six children, who said Clinton's election convinced him to join the rescue movement: "That was the final straw." He's been accepted.

Tougher Clinton administration laws against rescue won't deter Joseph Foreman either. "Clinton is no match for a believing church," Foreman says, "and Bush is no replacement."

While Tucci's branch of rescue is Christian activism, Foreman's is missionary work. Unborn children form a "group of people who are going to be murdered, never having heard the gospel," foreman said in a telephone interview from a Milwaukee jail. "This is a missions issue...Activism is legitimate [as] a political expression, but the missionary is somebody who goes there and brings the gospel, regardless of the political situation, to people who will not otherwise hear it.

"So what I am talking about is a missionary to the preborn approach."

This new phase of the pro-life movement does not mean pro-life political involvement will cease. "It would be a mistake to conclude that the public policy debate is over," warns National Right to Life Committee's Douglas Johnson

There is little pro-lifers can do to stop executive orders by Clinton reversing Bush administration policies against tax-funded abortion counseling, referral, and fetal tissue research-actions Johnson concedes "will result in more abortions."

But NRLC's federal legislative director notes that the House of Representatives remains closely divided over the Freedom of Choice Act and federal funding of abortion.

Abandoning the public policy arena, Johnson says, "cedes federal policy making to the abortion pressure groups." These groups will demand laws making it difficult even to oppose abortion, whether through protests, direct action, or compassionate ministry.

Under new federal statutes, protests against abortion businesses could become unlawful or be kept far away from clinic buildings and property; crisis pregnancy centers could be restricted in their advertising and not allowed to appear in the same Yellow Pages classifications as abortion clinics; hospitals and pro-life health care workers could be compelled to provide abortions.

"If there's no effective opposition," Johnson says, "they'll walk all over us."

Some pro-lifers, though, are suing for peace-through a movement called "common ground." It's not a new idea. Prior to the 1980 election, a common ground meeting was held in Washington: It was presided over by feminist activist Eleanor Smeal. Although pro-lifers were skeptical and divided over whether to attend the meeting, some believed at the time it was possible to work together to reduce the abortion demand.

Representatives from a Cleveland group called People Expressing A Concern for Everyone, or PEACE, disrupted the meeting by bringing into the room "Baby Elizabeth, "a dead unborn child wrapped in a blanket. The meeting was over.

When pro-lifers won the Webster v. Reproductive Health Services decision in 1989, Andrew Puzder began trying to rebuild the dormant movement. Puzder, a St. Louis lawyer now living in southern California, wrote an op-ed article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch calling for pro-lifers and pro-choicers to pull together toward a common goal of reducing the demand for abortion. Puzder was a key drafter of the Missouri legislation restricting abortions.

"If we can put aside for a moment our simple win-lose attitudes and approach this issue sensibly and calmly, perhaps we can jointly accomplish some good for those we all seek to protect." Puzder wrote.

Abortion business-woman B.J. Isaacson-Jones, who headed the Reproductive Health Services clinic, responded to Puzder's offer and agreed to meet-and thus began the current common-ground movement.

In Missouri, both sides have supported legislation aimed at helping pregnant crack-addicted mothers, expanding WIC funding, and preventing teen pregnancy.

Puzder added to the group Loretto Wagner, then legislative chairman of Missouri Citizens for Life (now Missouri Right to Life). "I was sick of being cynical and suspicious," says Mrs. Wagner, explaining that as a pro-life activist she felt alienated from "half of the world." She believes pro-lifers should appeal to the good in pro-abortion people: "I think all people are capable of good."

But some of Mrs. Wagner's fellow pro-life activists believed she was up to no good. At one board meeting she was instructed not to be a part of common ground efforts in her official capacity. She came under increasing fire from some board members and-although she says she survived a "no confidence" vote-resigned her official duties.

"I didn't want to be associated with such bigoted people," Mrs. Wagner said, adding that she still enjoys good relations with most members of MRL.

Samuel Lee, also one of the prime drafters of the Missouri statute, parts company with his colleagues in the common ground effort. "It treats each side as moral equals," Lee says. "That's what bothers me most."

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