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Politics

Pro-Life Activists Converge on the First Coast

June 22, 2011 - 6:00pm

The National Right-to-Life Committee (NRLC), the nations largest organization opposing abortion, opened its annual convention in Jacksonville on Thursday, encouraged by recent electoral successes and cheering encouraging news across the nation.

Founded in 1968, with more than 3,000 chapters across the nation, leaders of the NRLC said their organization would continue to fight against abortion at the political and grass roots levels, pushing legislation and educational programs. Besides standing against abortion, the NRLC, a recognized nongovernmental organization at the United Nations, also opposes euthanasia, assisted suicides and medically mandated death. The group last met in Florida in 1998 -- when, as now, the Sunshine State was ravaged by wildfires.

In a videotaped greeting to the convention, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a rising star for conservatives and Republicans, praised the group for its commitment to fighting for life.

Our rights come from God, our Creator, said Rubio who referred to the Declaration of Independence. Floridas new senator encouraged the pro-life activists to continue their efforts. Thats what youre doing -- fighting for the rights of unborn people.

Rubio also praised the NRLC for selecting the conservative First Coast to hold its convention. It has constantly stood for the rights of the unborn, said Rubio.

While Rubio spoke by recorded message, three prominent Republicans in the Florida House of Representatives were in attendance -- Larry Ahern of St. Petersburg, Dennis Baxley of Ocala and Charles Van Zant of Palatka.

Mary Spaulding Balch, the director of state legislation for the NRLC, praised the Sunshine States political leadership for passing measures requiring women considering abortions to have ultrasounds performed. While the measure passed the House and the Senate in 2010, then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the measure. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign the bill, which also passed both chambers in 2011.

We like the ultrasound bill, said Balch. It gives a face to the unborn child.

Randall OBannon, the director of education and research for the NRLC, noted that there were 1.6 million abortions performed in America back in 1990 as opposed to 1.2 million last year. He pointed to a number of political battles -- including pushing for ultrasounds and parental notification for minors looking to have an abortion performed -- as reasons why abortion is on the decline.

Theres a long way to go still and were doing all we can, said OBannon. He added that pro-life activists will continue to fight taxpayer-funded abortion. He also added that repealing the federal health-care law backed by President Barack Obama will remain one of the chief priorities of the NRLC.

The convention brought in more than 1,000 pro-life activists to Jacksonville. Presenters included noted political pundit Fred Barnes, former Planned Parenthood worker turned pro-life activist Abby Johnson, and Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life.

Five candidates for the Republican presidential nomination -- U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and businessman Herman Cain -- will address the group on Friday.

NRLC officials continued to stress that polls found more and more Americans were turning against abortion. In her opening remarks to the convention, Carol Tobias, the president of the NRLC, noted that a recent Gallup poll found 61 percent of those surveyed were either pro-life or opposed to abortion except for the most rare cases of rape, incest and danger to the mothers life.

More and more people are embracing the pro-life label and are increasingly becoming vocal, noted Derrick Jones, the director of communications of the NRLC.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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