While most Utahns spent the Fourth of July picnicking, pro-choice abortion advocates were busy phoning lawmakers and painting picket signs vigorously protesting the U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday imposing limits on a woman's right to abortion.
Tuesday marked the first day of an aggressive campaign by pro-choice activists. Their goal: To convince Utah lawmakers that the majority of Utahns support a woman's right to choose and that an anti-abortion vote is a political liability.To kick off the ambitious campaign, the National Abortion Rights Action League scheduled a rally at 5 p.m. in front of the Federal Building.
Susanne Millsaps, executive director of the 450-member Utah chapter of NARAL, told the Deseret News Tuesday: "Repeated polls show the majority of Utahns believe abortion should be left to the individual involved. Now is the time for the majority to speak out."
Groups favoring the Supreme Court decision making it easier to impose new and tougher limits on a woman's right to abortion have not yet announced their strategy to influence state legislators.
The court's decision means that abortion remains legal but sends a clear message to pro-choice groups that a majority of the court is open to allowing more restrictions on abortion.
One reason that Utah lawmakers have not realized that the majority of their constituents are pro-choice is the timidity of pro-choice supporters in this conservative state, Millsaps said.
"Pro-choice supporters feel they are the only ones who are thinking this way, so they keep quiet because they believe it is hopeless. But the reality is quite different. Not only do we need to convince legislators we are the majority, we need to become more aware of our own strength," she said.
Pro-choice activists will be holding many rallies, demonstrating, speaking in public meetings and lobbying legislators to persuade them to their view. Millsaps concedes her group has a formidable challenge, given the anti-abortion views of the majority of Utah politicians.
"We will be a very loud voice heard throughout the community. We want to persuade people that to make abortion inaccessible is not going to do away with abortion. It's better to have safe, legal, controlled abortion instead of abortions conducted in back alleys," she said.
From her travels throughout Utah speaking to women's groups, she believes most Utah women would not choose to have abortions themselves, "but they would allow another to make that difficult decision themselves," she said.