BBC News - 17 Jun 2003

US abortion pioneer seeks ban

The woman at the centre of the landmark case that made abortion legal in the United States has asked for the decision to be reversed.

Norma McCorvey - the formerly anonymous "Roe" in the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v Wade - filed a motion requesting that a Dallas court examine what she called new evidence that abortion is harmful to women.

"I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders," Ms McCorvey, 55, said at a news conference in Texas on Tuesday.

The abortion-rights group Naral Pro-Choice America dismissed the case as "a sad anti-choice publicity stunt.

"Instead of leaving private medical decisions up to a woman and her doctor, anti-choice forces want the government to decide," the group said in a statement.

"This case shows the extreme lengths to which they will go to overturn our constitutional right to choose," the statement said.

If Ms McCorvey's motion for a hearing is granted, the proceedings could open the door for the Supreme Court to revisit the case.

Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in America and may become more prominent in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election.

New legislation

The US House of Representatives voted earlier in June to ban so-called "partial birth" abortions.

The US Senate voted in favour of a ban on the form of late-term abortion in March, and US President George W Bush is expected to sign the ban into law.

It will be the first legislative restriction on a woman's right to choose since Roe v Wade.

Anti-abortionists are also pressing for legislation that would consider the foetus an individual in case of violent crimes against pregnant women.

They have already won the blessing of President George W Bush, himself a staunch opponent of abortion.

The move has however greatly alarmed pro-choice campaigners, who see it as part of a wider mission to establish foetal rights and undermine the right to abortion.

Ground-breaking

Ms McCorvey found herself associated with the critical Supreme Court case when she sought an abortion to end her third pregnancy.

Attorney Sarah Weddington, an abortion rights advocate, took up the case, which challenged the Texas law banning abortion.

Ms McCorvey had the child - and put it up for adoption, as with her two previous children - before the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guaranteed women the right to an abortion.

She identified herself as Roe in 1980 and has since made a number of anti-abortion statements.

On Tuesday, she asked the federal district court in Dallas to consider thousands of pages of documents - including 1,000 statements from women who say they regret their abortions.

The Texas attorney general and the Dallas district attorney must respond within 20 days.

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