They came last night to answer "The Silent Scream."
About 30 members of the National Womens Political Caucus of Northern Virginia and other pro-choice groups gathered at a rally in Arlington to counter the antiabortion film of that name, and the growing antiabortion movement, with a movie and experts of their own.
A Northern Virginia legislator, an administrator of a local clinic that performs abortions and the executive director of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, told the mostly female crowd that they must not cease the struggle for legal, safe and accessible abortions.
Barbara Anthony of the National Womens Political Caucus said that recent attacks on abortion clinics and legislative efforts to restrict abortions have prompted caucus members and others "to take an active and visible role in supporting pro-choice."
"The antichoice people were being very successful in their lobbying and publicity," said Elaine Kramer, program chairwoman of the caucus and moderator of last night's discussion. "There was a feeling among the group that we had to get back involved in this issue."
Since 1982 there have been more than 30 attacks on abortion clinics and related facilities nationwide. At the same time, many state legislatures have enacted curbs on abortion; 12 states now require clinics to notify parents if a minor seeks an abortion, and nine states require the consent of a parent or juvenile court judge for abortions on minor girls.
A bill that would have required parental or judicial consent for abortions on girls 17 or younger passed the Virginia House of Delegates this year but died in conference.
State Del. Bernard S. Cohen (D-Alexandria), who opposed the bill in the House, said last night that pro-choice activists must be careful about the words they use in discussing the issue.
"You should walk out of this room and say, 'I will never again call anybody a pro-lifer.' If you do, you are fighting the battle on their ground," Cohen said.
A highlight of last night's program was the screening of a movie developed by Planned Parenthood of Seattle as a response to "The Silent Scream," which uses ultrasound to depict an abortion in progress.
In the Planned Parenthood film doctors at the University of Washington charged that "The Silent Scream" is manipulative, inaccurate and misleading, claiming it uses loaded language -- for instance referring to the physician as abortionist, the fetus as child and the uterus as a sanctuary -- rather than medical terms, to influence viewers.