Cover Story

Growing their own

ABORTION: In a bid to reverse pro-life trends among young people, pro-abortion groups are trying to recruit teen activists

Issue: "Roe v. Wade @ 31," Jan. 17, 2004

FIRST THERE WAS GENERATION X, then Generation Y-now there's Generation Pro-Choice. At least that's what the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) tells teen and college-age recruits on its website.

"It's not just your mother's pro-choice movement," NARAL Pro-Choice America counsels would-be young activists. "If you support access to birth control, sex education, and abortion, and you've never lived in a time when abortion was illegal ... then congratulations, you are Generation Pro-Choice. And we need your help getting other young people involved to protect ... a woman's right to choose-or else quite frankly, we're gonna lose it."

"Losing it"-translation: pro-life ascendancy-may be one reason NARAL and other groups are targeting teens for conversion to pro-abortion activism. Another reason: Teens, increasingly, just don't like abortion. In a November Gallup poll, 72 percent of American teenagers agreed that abortion is morally wrong. One-third said abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, compared with 17 percent of adults. Forty-seven percent said abortion should be legal only under certain circumstances, while 55 percent of adults believe that. Meanwhile, the annual University of California at Los Angeles poll of college freshmen last year showed that support for abortion among that group has, over the last decade, dropped from two-thirds to a bare majority of 51 percent.

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Analysts point to several reasons for the attitude adjustment: a decline in teen pregnancy and a resulting drop in demand for abortion; greater societal acceptance of single parenting and parenting by unmarried partners; and a more positive view of placing a child for adoption. Meanwhile, ultrasound technology now showcases in 3-D color an unborn child's humanity, bringing into sharp focus what an abortion really "terminates."

Such trends aren't lost on pro-abortion groups. As a consequence, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and others are reaching out to teens with the message that being "pro-choice" is just one facet of an enlightened attitude toward sex, sexuality, and civil rights.

If pro-aborts strike the right tone with teens, they could touch a nerve. "Media written and produced by adults often portray today's teens as out of control and chaotic, when this is one of the most intelligent generations ever," said author Suzanne Eller, who interviewed 500 teenagers on topics including abortion for her book Real Issues, Real Teens: What Every Parent Needs to Know, due out in June. Pro-abortion groups are tapping into teens' desire to have their voices heard on major issues. "They tell [teens] about choice and their future and give them definitions of sexual freedom."

Thus, NARAL's passionate plea to teens to help protect "choice." But the group's Generation Pro-Choice site isn't above a little teen-speak. If the language were any chattier, the i's on the group's recruitment web-page might be dotted with hearts: "We'll give you fun and cool ways to get your friends in on the act ... for example you can send a sassy e-mail card here...."

While NARAL's national office emphasizes the "fun," "cool" nature of advocating for the killing of the unborn, the group's Pennsylvania chapter uses more of an alarmist strategy. NARAL-PA's site reveals to teens the state's parental- and informed-consent laws in a "Did you know?" format that hints a repeal of the Bill of Rights might just be next.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood's website directs kids to the internet home of Advocates for Youth, a left-wing Washington, D.C., group. At that website, teens can send template e-mails to Congress protesting abstinence-only sex-ed programs and the Bush administration's ban on funding international groups that promote abortion.

A plethora of junior-grade websites also promote abortion and abortion activism to teens. For example, the Coalition for Positive Sexuality (CPS) links abortion and faith in an attempt to convince youth that killing an unborn child is the historical healthcare choice of millions:

"Abortion is a simple medical procedure which ends a pregnancy," the CPS site says. "Throughout history, around the world, and in many religions, women have used abortion as a part of our healthcare.... Any reason we have for choosing abortion is a good reason."

Based on her work with youth, Suzanne Eller thinks pro-aborts will fail in their teen-conversion quest. Their Achilles heel: The truth is staring teens in the face. "This generation is bearing the fruit of 'freedom' that adults have been espousing," Ms. Eller said. "These are the teens who see their friends who have had abortions dealing with the reality of abortion. They are the ones who have experienced ... sex with multiple partners, STDs, depression, and are now fighting back and asking hard questions, like, 'You said that having sex without boundaries and abortion is no big deal. Then why do I feel like this?'"

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