The Issues: Abortion

Dale Spalding of Canned Heat sings during the Heros of Woodstock concert at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel, N.Y., Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009, marking the 40th anniversary of the original 1969 Woodstock concert.
AP Photo/Craig Ruttle
CBS News continues an election-year series titled "What Does It Mean To You?" focused on where the presidential candidates stand on major issues and how a vote for one or the other candidate might affect average people's lives.

In this report, CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes looks at the abortion debate.

Caron Strong has one daughter who is the joy of her life. So does Vicki Simpson.

Caron works part time as a secretary. Vicki has a desk job, too.

These two moms, who have never met, have something else in common: they've both had abortions. And years later, they still grieve.

Caron grieves for children she believes she killed. "I sacrificed my children on an altar of selfishness and greed," she says.

Vicki grieves for a planned pregnancy that went horribly wrong. "There were some very severe fetal abnormalities. There was really no chance for survival," Vicki says.

But on the issue of abortion rights, these women could not be further apart.

Does Caron wish she'd never had that choice?

"I wish to God that I didn't have that choice," she says.

Vicki disagrees. "I was thankful that I did have a choice to do what I had to do. As painful as it was, it still was my choice," she says.

A choice this employee of Planned Parenthood felt so strongly about that she joined hundreds of thousands who marched in Washington last spring.

"I want to vote for whoever it takes to get Bush out of office," Vicki says.

Democratic nominee John Kerry says that although he's personally opposed to the procedure, he would not restrict access to abortions and did not support the ban on late-term abortions.

"Abortion should be rare, but safe and legal. And government should stay out of the bedrooms of Americans," Kerry said at the April rally in Washington.

As an anti-abortion activist, Caron wants to keep President Bush in office.

"I just pray that he stays our president," she says.

Bush signed the bill banning late-term abortions, supports waiting periods and parental consent laws.

"The most basic duty of government is to defend the life of the innocent," says Bush. "This right to life cannot be granted or denied by government because it does not come from government. It comes from the creator of life."

Although deeply divided on the subject that connects them, both women share the view – a hope for Caron and a fear for Vicki – that if re-elected, President Bush will further restrict abortions and nominate judges who could one day overturn Roe v. Wade, the 30-year-old decision that made abortion legal.