Proponents defend it as a woman's right. Opponents call it unnatural, unholy. It divides families and churches. It defines political candidates, but it - abortion - just won't go away.
There have been more than 35 million abortions in the United States since the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision.
Although the American Medical Association Board of Trustees said in 1997 that no health risk requires partial-birth abortion as a treatment, President Clinton and the courts have upheld the procedure, which critics consider infanticide.
Restrictions on sidewalk counseling also have tightened.
And on Thursday, Danco Laboratories of New York got the green light from the Food and Drug Administration to distribute RU-486, the abortion pill, in the United States.
Both supporters and opponents acknowledge, however, that the number of abortions is declining, although there is no agreement on why. Abortions have dropped about 16 percent, and the number of doctors performing abortions has dropped about 14 percent since 1990.
Four church and faith-based events this week in the Augusta area will focus on the fight against abortion - the annual Life Chain; the 10th-anniversary rosary in front of Planned Parenthood on Broad Street; a fund-raiser to benefit Augusta Care Pregnancy Center at Bell Auditorium; and an all-day seminar on pro-life and chastity issues at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church.
HEAD:Life Chain of prayer
Life Chain, an hour of silent prayer for all those touched by abortion, will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at Warren Baptist Church, 3203 Washington Road, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Pine Log Road, west of Whiskey Road in Aiken.
Supporters gather about 10 minutes before the start of events to pick up placards. A brief prayer service will follow the Warren Baptist event.
The nondenominational Life Chain movement started in Yuba City, Calif., about 12 years ago and went national in 1991. It has spread to more than 800 cities in Canada and the United States. For more information, call Warren Baptist at 860-1586 or (803) 649-3886 in Aiken.
The first time the Rev. Mark Ross, then associate pastor of St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church, led a rosary in front of Planned Parenthood in downtown Augusta, he called police the day before.
"They sent a paddy wagon out, just in case," said the priest, now pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Vidalia, Ga.
He will lead the 10th-anniversary rosary in front of the agency, 1289 Broad St., at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. He and the Rev. Allan McDonald will concelebrate a Mass at Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity, 720 Telfair St., at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Some 1,300 abortions were performed at the clinic in 1999, according to Mary Beth Pierucci of Planned Parenthood.
Pro-lifers in front of abortion clinics are "a light of hope for those who are walking down a dark path of death. It gives them a witness that life is sacred and precious even if it's inconvenient or embarrassing at that moment," the Rev. Ross said.
For more information, call 722-4944.
A benefit dinner for Augusta Care Pregnancy Center at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Bell Auditorium, 712 Telfair St., will feature Darrell Scott. His 17-year-old daughter, Rachel Joy, was a victim in the shooting in April 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado.
He traces violence in schools to the ban on school prayer - a ban he believes violates the U.S. Constitution.
Dinner tickets are $32-$44; tables are $250-$350. Tickets for only Mr. Scott's talk at 8 p.m. are $12. For more information or for reservations, call 724-5531.
A bus trip to Washington in 1992 changed graphic designer Lisa Toscani of Phoenixville, Pa., for life.
She had gone to the annual pro-life march on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade out of curiosity, but the throngs of people overwhelmed her, she said. "I had read about partial birth abortion and was horrified, but I couldn't turn away from the (depiction of) severed heads and mangled hands."
She joined the Pennsylvania chapter of Feminists for Life and eventually became president. "Soon after that bus ride I made a lot of noise with the media and served as vice president of communications for Feminists for Life."
Ms. Toscani was asked to help promote a pro-life exhibit timed for the 25th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. The collection, sponsored by the Washington-based National Conference of Catholic Bishops and New Haven, Conn.-based Knights of Columbus, has been on the road since 1997 and is booked through 2001, she said.
The exhibit will be displayed at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church, 117 Pleasant Home Road, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, in conjunction with seminars and workshops on pro-life and chastity issues for teen-agers and their parents. The event, called "Youth for Life," is sponsored by the CSRA Catholic Pro-Life Council and the Augusta Deanery.
Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.