TX pro-lifers adopt softer image in legislative push

AUSTIN, TX: Pro-lifers adopted a gentler image than usual to successfully push abortion restrictions through the Republican- dominated Texas Legislature.

AUSTIN, TX: Pro-lifers adopted a gentler image than usual to successfully push abortion restrictions through the Republican- dominated Texas Legislature.

Elizabeth Graham, associate director of the Texas Right to Life Committee (TRLC), acted as its spokesperson, working by cell phone from the capitol's cafeteria. Although the TRLC president is a man, Joseph Graham, "it is more appropriate for a woman to be the spokesperson," she said. "We have more women who are young, articulate, and attractive."

Professionalization of the pro-life movement began in the early 1990s, softening rhetoric and downplaying graphic photos, Graham said. "We will win people over with a teaspoon of sugar rather than alienate them with a teaspoon of vinegar."

Both sides of the debate based their claims on women's health issues. The TRLC claimed that an unusual provision requiring abortions performed after 16 weeks of pregnancy be done in ambulatory surgical centers would raise the medical standards for abortions. Opponents argued that no such centers in Texas provide abortions, so women carrying severely deformed fetuses might be unable to end their pregnancies.

Pro-choice organizations, such as Planned Parenthood and the Texas Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, conducted a 24-hour vigil in Austin protesting a 24-hour waiting period for abortions. Planned Parenthood sponsored a Scripps Howard Texas Poll that found more than 70% of Texans supported its activities, and agreed that decisions about abortions are "better left in the hands of a woman, her doctor, her family, and her god, rather than the hand of politicians." They also secured supportive editorials from major Texas newspapers.

While Democratic legislators' quorum-breaking flight to Oklahoma killed some abortion bills, those considered top priorities by pro-life groups survived and are expected to be signed by Gov. Rick Perry.

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