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Abortion foes dealt a setback

Even if the incoming Congress, with narrow Democratic majorities, is twisted into knots by Republican opposition and White House veto or immobilized by the Democrats performing their own famous pretzel maneuver, the recent election will have one sure effect.

If he gets a third crack at a Supreme Court appointment, President Bush won't be able load the court with a justice who is somewhere between likely and hell-bent to overturn Roe vs. Wade and throw the nation into a turmoil of state and federal antiabortion legislation.

As it is, lawful abortion teeters after the appointments of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito who, for all their courtly bows to precedent, come from activist legal quarters where Roe is disdained.

With their long push for a constitutional amendment against abortion politically forlorn, antiabortion lobbies have settled on the legal route as the most promising for them.

The United States is a rarity in its own hemisphere, only one of three countries, with Canada and Cuba, where abortion is lawful. All the rest either restrict the procedure severely or altogether.

With often appalling results. The Washington Post recently reported the case of Jazmina Bojorge, an 18-year-old Nicaraguan who died after entering a hospital with high fever and severe abdominal paints. Doctors refused to remove the five-month fetus, which had died in the woman's womb, hoping it would be naturally expelled.

A week earlier, Nicaragua's legislature had banned abortion with no exceptions. Although the law was a few days away from taking effect, women's advocates blame it for the medical hesitations that cost the teenager her life.

A ban enacted in El Salvador in 1998 set 50-year prison sentences.

Yes, U.S. culture is sharply different from Central and Latin American. Maybe, if Roe were reversed, the resulting politics would disappoint the antiabortion ultras, but it is just as well that the recent election made it a bit less likely that we will have to test that question.

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