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April 13, 2014

Abortion in cases of rape: New rifts in old debate

(Continued)

"Since the U.S. is the largest humanitarian aid donor, its abortion ban has become the de facto policy in most war zones where rape is used as a weapon of war," said the center's legal director, Akila Radhakrishnan.

Asked about the issue, the White House press office referred The Associated Press to the National Security Council, which advises the president on foreign policy matters. Two days later, the NSC said it was declining to comment.

The two controversies are notable in part because the American public is not closely divided on the issue of abortion access for rape victims. National polls taken since the 1970s consistently have shown that at least 70 percent of Americans support such access, and less than 25 percent oppose it.

O'Steen, the National Right to Life leader, acknowledged the polling results in a written analysis of the 2012 election.

"An overwhelming majority believes abortion should be allowed for rape," he wrote. "If that is the issue that defines what it means to be pro-choice or pro-life, then a majority will side with the pro-choice label."

In a telephone interview, O'Steen stressed that National Right to Life "doesn't want any child conceived by rape or incest to be killed by abortion." But that outlook, he said, does not prevent his group from endorsing certain anti-abortion bills that include the rape exception.

"We want to save all the lives that we can," he said. "You have to deal with the reality of the social and political climate."

National Right to Life's break with the Georgia group dismayed some anti-abortion activists, among them Keith Mason, co-founder of the Personhood USA movement that supports legislation defining human life as beginning at conception.

"What message does it send to our pro-life representatives when you whip them to support legislation that denies the right to life to innocent babies conceived in rape?" Mason said in a statement.

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