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ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In what has become an annual event thousands of activists on both sides of the abortion issue came to Washington today. They were demonstrating for or against a Roe V. Wade ruling that a woman has a constitutional right to end a pregnancy. There has also been renewed violence at clinics which perform abortions. Late last week six people were hurt in a double bombing at a family planning clinic in Atlanta, Georgia, and on Sunday two bomb explosions rocked another clinic in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Early this morning in the heart of downtown Washington a small explosion near a Planned Parenthood clinic caused a wave of jitters, but police said it seemed unrelated to the day’s anti-abortion protests. At a news conference this morning commemorating the Roe V. Wade anniversary Wanda Franz of the National Right to Life Committee disassociated her group from the bombings and emphasized the need for political not violent action.
WANDA FRANZ, President, National Right to Life Committee: We think it’s very important to get a message out to curb the violence that has occurred at clinics. And we have repeatedly put out press releases strongly condemning it and calling on anyone who might consider such a thing to abandon that course and to join with us in doing the education and the legislation and lobbying and political action which is really going to save lives and make a difference in this country.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: At noon at the annual March for Life rally on the ellipse President Clinton was singled out as a target for his veto last year of a ban on rare late-term abortions.
REP. CHRIS SMITH, (R) New Jersey: Your veto last year continued the late legal sanction for this gruesome assault on children. As things stand today, Mr. President, you are and your legacy will be abortion President.
SEN. MIKE DeWINE, (R) Ohio: And I am convinced that if we do a good enough job, all of us, explaining to the American people what a partial birth abortion really is that the public opinion will sweep this country and that even Bill Clinton will have to say, yes, I will sign it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Across town the National Abortion Rights Action League held its annual luncheon where Vice President Gore, who has consistently supported abortion rights, gave the keynote address.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Let there be no doubt. We will find the terrorists who committed these horrible acts of the past week, and we will punish you to the full extent of the law. We will not let you terrorize America’s women or their doctors. We will not let you deface our Constitution. We will not let you destroy the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood that is America. We’ll find you.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was also there as an honored guest.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: This most difficult of all intimate choices for women and men must be made by the individual in the privacy of her consultation with her conscience, her God, her family, her physician, and that is what it means to be pro-choice.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Today’s events come at a time when state legislatures are considering ways to restrict abortion while complying with the basic right established by Roe V. Wade. In a 1992 ruling the Supreme Court granted states some leeway to impose limits on abortion. According to the National Abortion Rights Action League, almost three quarters of state legislatures now support bills that would regulate abortion procedures. Also, yesterday on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott introduced legislation banning late-term abortion.
SEN. TRENT LOTT, Majority Leader: Partial birth abortion ban, the President vetoed that bill last year. We think this is a shameless act that we must deal with, and again the President said, well, you know, maybe we can talk about it. But we are determined to do this, and we will do it earlier, rather than later, in this first session.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Sen. Lott said Republicans consider the legislation banning late-term abortion a top priority.