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Next Move Up to States In Wake of Court Ruling

Pro-life forces cheer high court's green light for new state restrictions. ABORTION

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THE US Supreme Court - by upholding a highly controversial Missouri law restricting abortion - may have set off a major struggle in state legislatures and at the polls over the broader concept of privacy and its constitutional protections. The immediate debate has international implications, with foes of abortion reportedly stepping up right-to-life activities across Western Europe. They are focusing on Britain, France, Italy, Spain, and West Germany - countries where it now is relatively easy legally to terminate pregnancy.

Monday's long-awaited, 5-to-4 ruling in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services could invite anti-abortion lobbyists to reexamine abortion rights and restrictions in all 50 states with an eye toward greater government control, say critics. Judith Widdecombe, founder of the clinic involved in this decision, says she fears that the high court's action will encourage those around the nation who want to outlaw abortion completely. She predicts that the issue will become the ``Vietnam of the 1990s.'' (See story, Page 8.)

A key political goal of the Reagan administration was to find channels, judicial or legislative, to repeal the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which affords a constitutional guarantee for a woman's right to an abortion.

The Roe ruling opened the door, however, to state restrictions on abortion after the first trimester. A series of state laws limiting abortion have, for the most part, been struck down by the Supreme Court over the past 16 years on the basis that they invaded a woman's right to privacy.

Right-to-life advocates hoped that the high court would, in effect, overturn Roe in its ruling on Webster v. Reproductive Health Services. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, however, stressed the narrowness of the new decision, acknowledging only that it ``will undoubtedly allow more government regulation of abortion than was permissible before.''

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