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U. Maryland Anti-abortion Groups Rethink Partisan Views

This story was written by Allison Stice, The Diamondback

University of Maryland Students for Life is advocating a nonpartisan approach to the abortion issue, echoing anti-abortion voting blocs across the country as many consider supporting a Democrat for the first time without abandoning their opposition to abortion.

Although anti-abortion activists say Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) support for the Freedom of Choice Act - which would wipe out all restrictions on abortion prior to viability - is extreme, many believe he would be more likely to fund social programs for pregnant women than other candidates.

Students for Life has held a host of events, including testimony from women who regretted their abortions last week and a speaker last night from Feminists for Life, of which Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) is a member. But the events weren't held to influence the anti-abortion vote in the election, according to Students for Life Vice President and senior government and politics major Amanda Radke.

"At the same time, I don't think the issue has been getting as much attention as we would like," she said.

Joyce McCauley-Benner spoke to about 15 students yesterday about her choice to have a baby when she was in college, when she didn't know if the father was her boyfriend or the man who raped her. For McCauley-Benner, an anti-abortion platform is one that supports women who choose to go through with their pregnancies, and she urged bipartisan effort to pass the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Services Act, which would dole out $50 million in grants to colleges and universities for resource hubs for student parents and parents-to-be.

"Both sides have adopted pieces of our message this year," McCauley-Benner said. "Republicans are saying that women deserve better ... and Democrats are looking for pro-women's solutions, a [Feminists for Life] trademark."

Democrat Renee Belle, a senior communication and women's studies major, was inspired by McCauley-Benner's pro-woman message, but she said she is still in favor of abortion rights.

"I think more people are accepting of teen girls having babies than having abortions," she said. At the same time, Obama's more tempered approach to abortion is probably just for votes, she said.

At last Thursday's Students for Life-sponsored Cemetery of the Innocents - a once-a-semester planting of 3,500 flags on McKeldin Mall for the number of abortions every day in the United States - sophomore history major Greg Nasif cut to the chase.

"Who are you voting for?" he asked the table of Students for Life group members.

Senior business major and group president Marc McCarthy stressed the need to transcend party lines.

"If all pro-lifers moved to one party, the issue would be even more polarizing," he said.

McCarthy admitted that his vote will go to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whom he said he believes will appoint conservative justices, and Palin, whom he called a good example of an anti-abortion advocate.

Obama promised in an address to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund last July that his first act as president would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, McCarthy said.

Nasif, an anti-abortion independent, argued Obama's case - which has become increasingly moderate - including his claim at the last presidential debate that "nobody is pro-abortion."

"The most important thing is that Obama values each individual, and he would fund a system that could take care of a woman if she is pregnant and support mothers," Nasif said. "It's better for the pro-life movement in the long run. We can't rush it out to overturn Roe v. Wade or it will backlash."

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