Want to cast a pall on a discussion among friends? Bring up the topic of abortion. No other nationwide issue has been as divisive and as emotional over a long period of time as that topic.
Since its legalization, almost 30 years ago, foes of abortion have been steadfast in their opposition. Marches are conducted every January in many communities. In some locations weekly pro-life vigils are held.
Those who are pro-choice wish the whole issue would just go away, but it's likely they would work just as hard to overturn any Supreme Court ruling that infringed upon a woman's right to have an abortion.
Minnesota's pro-life activists scored their first political victory in many years during this legislative session. They were able to pass legislation in both the House and the Senate relating to the woman's right to know issue. They successfully passed bills that would have required a 24-hour waiting period for a woman who wanted an abortion.
Their efforts proved futile, however, when Gov. Jesse Ventura vetoed the legislation. Pro-life people were particularly incensed at the veto because many of them felt they had received assurances from the governor's staff that the bill's wording would be acceptable to him.
The bill's veto resurrected some hard feelings between the two camps. And just as those feelings were starting to settle down, Rep. Steve Wenzel, DFL-Little Falls, seized upon another opportunity to advance the pro-life cause. He successfully attached an anti-abortion amendment to a bill that would provide homeless youths with a support network.
His intent was to prevent state dollars from going to organizations that provide or promote abortions.
How one views Wenzel's amendment is probably related to which side of the pro-choice/pro-life fence the opinion-holder is on.
Wenzel's critics, who thought they had seen the last of the abortion issue for this session, were critical of the measure being attached to a bill to help the homeless. The abortion issue is important enough, they argue, that abortion-related bills should be voted up or down on their own merits. Attaching abortion-related amendments to other bills gums up the legislative works.
Since Ventura had stated he wanted abortion provisions to be debated on their own merits and indicated a veto was likely, Wenzel's amendment was a wasted effort, his critics contended.
The Little Falls DFLer doesn't think those criticisms are valid.
He argued his amendment was directly related to the bill on homeless youth because the bill dealt with pregnancy counseling and birth control. Unless some restrictions were added to the bill, he argued, tax money could go to organizations such as Planned Parenthood. This would happen despite the protests of citizens who contend Planned Parenthood conducts and promotes abortion.
Wenzel added that his amendment, which passed 77-55, was judged as germane by the speaker. And there was no challenge to the speaker's ruling.
As politicians and citizens have discovered time and time again, there is no middle ground in the abortion debate. And that's likely to be the case years from now as well.
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