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What `Roe' really says. For almost a decade and a half, Roe v. Wade has been misread, misinterpreted, and misused.

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ABORTION is fast becoming the issue that divides United States liberals and conservatives. Or at least that is what the political extremists would have us believe.

Place Bob Bork on the US Supreme Court and you can say goodbye to ``Roe,'' warn ultra-liberal naysayers.

Give us Bork and abortion will be banished forever, predict the conservative hard-liners.

With all due respect, both are wrong!

The liberals misread Bork. The conservatives misread ``Roe.'' And they both misread America.

Let's start with ``Roe.'' That's Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling of 1973, which many liberals hail as legalizing abortion and just as many conservatives decry for the same reason.

For almost a decade and a half, Roe has been misread, misinterpreted, and misused.

Its backers - among them so-called ``freedom of choice'' champions - say this ruling unconditionally established a woman's constitutional right to do as she pleases about a pregnancy.

Its detractors - among them so-called ``right to life'' advocates - say this decision signaled open season on the destruction of fetuses and spurred the proliferation of abortion clinics across the land.

Just what is it that Roe really accomplished? Basically, a very modest thing.

The justices, by a 7-to-2 vote, declared invalid state laws that prohibited or restricted a woman's right to obtain an abortion during her first three months of pregnancy.

And they drafted a new set of national guidelines that, at the time, liberalized existing antiabortion laws in more than 40 states but did not abolish restrictions altogether.

Specifically, the 1973 ruling held that:

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