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Prolife advocates opt against direct assault on ‘Roe v Wade’

Despite the loud lament against legal abortion, the prolife movement in Arizona isn’t pushing for legislation that will directly contravene Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave women the right to an abortion.

In a rousing speech on Jan. 22, the landmark decision’s 40th anniversary, a leading prolife advocate made an emphatic plea before a crowd of hundreds to continue working toward ending legal abortion in America.

But despite the combative stance, Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, said her group won’t push for a proposal that seeks to ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade.

This is not surprising. As a strategy, the center, an influential evangelical Christian lobby, has opted to chip away at Roe v. Wade rather than fight it head on.

That strategy has been quite successful, especially with Republican Gov. Jan Brewer at the helm.

“We’ve got two lawsuits before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. We’re not anticipating a major abortion bill right now,” Herrod told the Arizona Capitol Times.

“There’s still much to be done. I want to make it clear that we’re not done, but I don’t know that it will be that flashy or aggressive an agenda.”

There are several paths to confronting Roe v. Wade. One is to push for a “personhood” amendment, which would confer a person’s rights to the unborn. Another is to push for a restriction that makes it virtually impossible to have a legal abortion, such as the so-called “heartbeat bill.”

But Herrod said her group is neither going for “personhood” nor the “heartbeat” bill.

While the prolife movement is focused on keeping alive the dream to end legal abortion and assailing the pro-choice “culture of death,” critics said it hasn’t done enough for those who are already born.

Former Democratic Sen. Paula Aboud, who is leading a group that seeks to elect pro-choice legislators, said the other side’s “culture of life” doesn’t extend to children and families that are struggling with poverty and lack of basic services.

“It’s the hypocrisy of the movement that they’re continually advocating to limit the number of people that can adopt children,” Aboud said, likely referring to a law pushed by the center to give married couples preference in adopting children in the state’s foster care system.

The former legislator also said the prolife movement hasn’t really stood up to support health care for children, access to schools or food for families. “It’s a narrow obsession with one aspect,” she said.

Aboud also warned that women have already sent out a loud and unequivocal message in the last election. “Women across the United States rejected men who held extremist views against women and [have attacked] women’s reproductive choices,” she said.

But Herrod said the answer to abortion is not merely political. She said her group is part of a coalition that offers a more holistic response to this difficult issue, citing the work of pregnancy care centers, places that help place adoptive children, and churches and their community programs.

“The answer to every problem is not found at the state Capitol,” she said, calling Aboud’s remarks “unfounded, untrue, angry.”

But if Arizona is anything like the mood of the nation, Herrod has her work cut out for her.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll conducted recently shows that 70 percent of Americans support Roe v. Wade, the highest level of backing for the decision since 1989.

Additionally, absolutists on either side appeared to be a shrinking minority — only 9 percent of those surveyed said abortion should always be illegal and 31 percent preferred it to be always legal.

— Alyson Zepeda contributed to this article.

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