ABORTION: by John MorrisseyNews Weekly
U.S. woman's success in saving the unborn
, September 2, 2006
A Mississippi pro-life activist has toured Australia, showing what can be done to close down abortion mills, reports John Morrissey."I would like to see abortion end in my lifetime." These are the words of Terri Herring, an American whirlwind who swept from Melbourne to Cairns in August, inspiring those who work to protect the unborn.
This articulate and vivacious mother, and long-time president of Pro-Life Mississippi, held Australian audiences spellbound as she told them in her lovely Southern accent how the abortion industry has been all but wiped out in her state.
Speaking at a Right to Life conference in Melbourne, on August 11–13, she outlined her philosophies, her campaigns and her successes in Mississippi, as well as displaying the personal qualities which helped her to wear down the objections of hard-bitten Southern politicians.Achievements
Step by step, Terri Herring and her colleagues have helped to achieve the passing of state laws which have put a hedge around the uncontrolled right to abortion which has existed in the U.S. since the Roe vs. Wade
Supreme Court decision in 1973.
Beginning with a law, passed in 1991, requiring the consent of both parents for a minor to have access to an abortion, her organisation has assisted the passage of 13 different laws which in one way or another restrict abortion.
It took a further seven years for the parental-consent law to survive legal challenges on the grounds of "constitutionality". The American Public Broadcast Service (PBS) television Frontline
special, "The Last Abortion Clinic" (November 8, 2005), brought her campaign international recognition and led to her current tour of Australia.
Her involvement began in 1984 at a very early age, after the birth of her son, Warren, when she was asked by her obstetrician to pose for a pro-life promotional publication. She was later told that they needed young women of childbearing age to lobby the legislature.
She is adament that her religious faith sustained her. "I learned at a very early age (25 and mother of three) that one person can have an impact on the world," she says. "With the Lord, you can make a difference."
In her campaigns for the unborn, she developed a particular compassion, not just for the baby but for the young woman, pregnant and afraid. This is a lesson which she emphasises today, for young women are especially powerful advocates for the rights of the unborn, as are women who have been damaged by abortions themselves and are now passionate pro-lifers.
Many in her audience were particularly struck by the patient strategy of Pro-Life Mississippi and its incremental successes over more than 20 years. It was perhaps best summed up in Terri Herring's recollection of a legislator who objected to their aims, on the grounds that abortion should be available in cases of rape and incest.
Her response was: "So you're 99 per cent in agreement with us!" She knew that these hard cases form only a tiny percentage of so-called "unwanted" pregnancies. He was 99 per cent pro-life, as she found him, and the hard cases could be put aside for the present.
She says she can work with this sort of legislator, rather than alienating him or her with an all-or-nothing approach. In effect, in spite of Roe vs. Wade
, abortion is banned in Mississippi for all but the cases of rape and where the mother's life is actually
A powerful weapon in the fight against the abortion industry has been the use of images of unborn children, both in the womb and in the bloody reality of "termination".
Free imaging is now provided in Mississippi, and the conference saw a video of the PBS program, "The Last Abortion Clinic", showing a young black woman marvelling at a sonagram of the child within her womb and uttering the words, "That's my baby!"
Another has been to approach abortionists from the angle of medical standards prevailing in their clinics. Mississippi has strict laws on these standards which have effectively forced abortion clinics to shut down. Perhaps most outstanding is the $31 "Choose Life" licence plate, which provides funds to support poor women through their pregnancies - a real alternative.
Among Terri Herring's Melbourne audience were scientists, politicians, clergy, ethicists, health professionals and lay people of all ages. All of the major pro-life interests in the state were represented: Margaret Tighe (Right to Life), Denise Cameron (Pro-Life Victoria), Babette Francis (Endeavour Forum) and Marcia Riordan (Respect Life Office, Catholic archdiocese of Melbourne).Politicians
Terri challenged her audience to take up the issue with politicians, encouraging them at least to say: "I don't believe that abortion should be used as a form of birth control."
The secret of her success, she said, was for pro-life forces to make allies, pursue incremental change, show women the alternatives to abortion, and provide support for them.
The Mississippi campaign was not won overnight, or even in one electoral term. But now, she said, in her state, "it is PC (politically correct) to be pro-life".