Nation remains torn 40 years after Roe v. Wade

Nation remains torn 40 years after Roe v. Wade

CHAMPAIGN — Myrna Buyno remembers the insults and chicken bones that used to be hurled at her and her fellow anti-abortion advocates marching in Champaign-Urbana's July 4 parade.

There have been some warmer responses in recent years.

"Now people are standing up and clapping," says Buyno, a 72-year-old Champaign Catholic who's been involved in the fight against abortion for more than two decades.

Buyno contends Americans are becoming fed up with a "culture of death" that includes gun violence, and she believes school shootings involving child deaths are fueling support for the anti-abortion cause.

But recent polls showed the nation as torn as ever nearing today's 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

A Pew Research Center poll released this month found 63 percent of the public wasn't in favor of completely overturning the decision. Yet nearly 47 percent of people believe it's morally wrong to have an abortion.

See the complete poll at

Tom Dousa, the Respect Life coordinator at St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Urbana, says he's participated in a local "life chain" and has experienced both sides of the public's split personality about abortion and its opponents:

There were horns honked in support, he says, "and sometimes a less polite gesture indicating their disapproval."

Pam Sutherland, Planned Parenthood of Illinois' vice president for public policy, says Americans may remain conflicted about abortion, but they're not making election decisions favoring more restriction.

"There are protesters always, but have they made a real difference in policy in this state? No," she said. "I'd go back and challenge their beliefs. Their candidates didn't win."

Sutherland contends Americans delivered a clear message to politicians, and it's one that says they're tired of somebody else making their private medical decisions.

"There are people who are conflicted about abortion, we know that. But their conflict about it hasn't changed their mind that it needs to be legal and it needs to be a private decision," she said.

Sutherland defines Roe-v-Wade in much broader terms than abortion: It focused attention on unintended pregnancies and that served to broaden the discussion on the need for women's health services and wider access to contraceptives, she says.

"The abortion numbers in this country are going down, and they are going down for a very good reason. They went down due to Roe-v-Wade," she said.

Sutherland says families are good at deciding for themselves what they need, but rather than adding more restrictions, it's important to make sure all options are available to them.

"If we would all work toward making sure all men and women and teens have more access to health care and having a wide range of services and better access to contraceptives and sex education that is medically accurate, I think we'll see a reduced need for abortion," she adds. "That's the way to go. If you're opposed to abortion, support contraception."

Local anti-abortion advocates have their own plans, among them at least two public vigils tonight for the Roe-v-Wade anniversary.

Buyno's group, Life is for Everyone, will assemble for a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. at Women's Health Practice, where abortions are available, at 2121 S. Neil St., C.

Neither Dr. Suzanne Trupin of Women's Health Practice, nor the office manager, returned a call to The News-Gazette.

A community ecumenical anti-abortion prayer vigil will also be held at 7:30 p.m. tonight at St. Matthew Catholic Church, Champaign.

One of the speakers at the later event will be Joy Pace, chairwoman of the anti-abortion group at Champaign's Holy Cross Catholic Church.

Pace has been conducting a "sidewalk ministry" for about nine years, approaching women considering abortions and talking to them about continuing their pregnancies and helping find support for those who do.

"We find over and over again that most women don't know the development of the baby," she said. "When they see the ultrasound, they'll choose to let their baby live."

Shirley Kolb of Monticello — the chairwoman of this year's event at St. Matthew and a member of First Wesleyan Church, Urbana — says she sees signs the anti-abortion cause is gaining ground with so many abortion restrictions being added at the state level across country.

Kolb contends the recent elections don't necessarily reflect the public's views on abortion. For her and other anti-aborton advocates, abortion was the paramount issue in voting, she said, but she believes there were other issues that affected voting decisions for many people.

"President Obama is the most pro-abortion president we've ever had, and I think many people who call themselves pro-life voted for him," she said.

Dousa says he believes Roe-v-Wade can't be overturned, but more state restrictions across the country can continue to weaken it.

"In a sense, that's where it is appropriate that such decisions be made and I think it's realistically the most effective way of eventually moving the court back into a pro-life direction," he said.

Pace, Buyno and Kolb all they see an increasing support for the anti-abortion movement among young people, but the way Sutherland sees it, young people want non-judgmental care.

"I'm honestly putting my faith in younger people who have said this is the way we want to see it," she said.

Honor Moore, University of Illinois second-year law student and a member of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, says most members in her organization support the option of abortion as a choice — and that's not necessarily reflective of the entire campus community.

"I would agree that it's still an extremely divisive issue — and especially in the campus community that I'm in — and we definitely don't have everybody agreeing with us," she added.