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Abortion-rights activist: Why she'll march Sunday

April 21, 2004|by BOB MAGINNIS

Linda Smith grew up in a conservative Republican family and attended the Presbyterian Church, so she heard the arguments against abortion early in life. But she said that what she learned as a health professional convinced her that it's a choice that needs to be preserved.

That's why she and the Washington County chapter of the National Organization for Women are taking a bus to this Sunday's March for Women's Lives that will end with a 1 p.m. rally on the National Mall in Washinbgton, D.C.

Hundreds of thousands will gather there, she said, in an attempt to reach the Congress, the president and voters across the country with the message that Roe v. Wade, the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion, is in jeopardy.

"If we get one more ultra-conservative (Supreme Court) justice, we'll be near an overturn," she said.

Why would that be a bad thing?

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"Before Roe v. Wade, there were back-alley abortions going on. Having it legal means it is much safer," she said.

It was her own experience as a pharmacist that convinced her of the need for legal abortion. She saw some women, she said, who were infected and died as a result of illegal procedures.

Haven't methods of birth control been greatly improved since that ruling?

"There's no form of birth control that's 100 percent effective. The vast majority of abortions are performed on women who practiced birth control," she said.

In such a case, would it be so bad for the woman to carry the child to term?

"Actually if you want to look at it that way, there's a much higher risk to a woman of going through pregnancy than it is in having a safe, legal abortion," she said.

"Now I'm not talking against pregnancy, because that's a wonderful thing," she said. She added that the daughter of a NOW member underwent an abortion that saved her life, after which she went on to have other children.

Since you've been doing this kind of advocacy for many years now, you've heard the arguments against it, including those cited from the Bible? How do you react?

"I consider myself a strongly spiritual person. I believe each individual needs to make these very private decisions with the advice of medical professionals, based on their own circumstances," she said.

"I've been called a murderer. Obviously it's hurtful to hear that. I know in my heart that my intentions are good and that's how I deal with it," she said.

Others have a right to their positions, she said, and to express those opinions.

"But they do not have a right to force me to practice what they preach. But if that's their position, I respect that," she said.

Does the fetus have any rights?

"I think that until a fetus is viable, I don't feel that it does," she said.

There are many couples who can't conceive. Why not encourage those who become pregnant to carry the child so others could adopt it?

"I knew a woman who had a baby and put it up for adoption and she had psychological problems all her life. There are ramifications no matter which way you turn," she said. Again, she said, it's a personal decision that should be made only after consulting with a medical professional.

As a medical professional herself, Smith said that one of the choices she's working to preserve is the emergency contraceptive.

She said that unlike RU-486, which is an abortive agent, emergency contraceptives were developed after the Food and Drug Administration found that emergency room doctors were treating women who had been raped with high doses of conventional birth-control pills, to prevent conception.

An FDA advisory group met last year and voted 25-3 to give two prescription drugs - Plan B and Preven - over-the-counter status.

"The FDA was supposed to make a decision in February and now it's been put off indefinitely," she said.

They needs OTC status, she said, because many times contraceptive failure or unprotected sex occurs at night or on weekends when doctors are hard to reach.

"If this was available, the number of abortions could be significantly reduced," she said.

If you're interested in being on the bus going to the march, call 301-733-2537, or e-mail washingtonconow@aol.com.




Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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