Violence, political compromise, and Clinton’s policies trigger a split among abortion opponents over goals and strategy.

More than two decades after Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, the pro-life movement is itself grappling with viability. The movement has divided into three streams, each trying to cut a different channel, but none of them about to become a rushing torrent.

“It has become commonplace to say that the prolife movement is at a crossroads,” says C. Everett Koop, former U.S. surgeon general. “It is more serious than that. The prolife movement took a wrong turn or two. We must start down the right road all over again.”

Pro-lifers can perhaps be described as falling into three broad categories: hardliners, negotiators, and alternative-service providers.

The hardliners, including many in the rescue movement, have carved out the clearest policy position—that abortion is unequivocally wrong—but there is disagreement over the role of violence. A small but growing number of extreme hardliners have condoned—even advocated—shooting abortionists as “justifiable homicide.”

The negotiators have had some successes by making political deals, but they allow for abortion in exceptional cases, a view that hardliners consider expedient and logically questionable. Critics charge they risk losing the fight by compromising too much.

Alternative-service providers, for the most part, agree with hardliners on abortion, but they prefer to focus on crisis pregnancy and adoption services—keeping babies alive on a practical level. They have little political clout and are tiny in comparison to well-funded abortion-rights groups.

The election of Bill Clinton a year ago has galvanized pro-lifers. Yet, the existence of a recognizable foe has ...

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