Holding back tears, Bill and Karen Bell talked of the death of their daughter, Becky, in 1988. Afraid to tell her parents that she was pregnant and convinced that a judge would not grant her an exemption from the state law requiring the consent of one of her parents to have an abortion, the 17-year-old underwent an illegal abortion during which she contracted an infection, the couple said. A short time later, she was dead.

The Bells, Indianapolis Republicans who voted for George Bush, are taking their story to high schools and colleges around the country. They are part of a new campaign by abortion-rights advocates to convince voters that allowing a teenager to have an abortion without the knowledge or consent of her parents should be legal.

"It is our hope that in speaking out we can spare other families the nightmare we must now live," Bill Bell said at a news conference last week. "These laws are punitive, they're restrictive -- they're deadly."

But even abortion-rights advocates say the Bells' task in opposing so-called parental consent or notification laws will not be easy. Polls show that while a majority of Americans support keeping abortion legal, only a small minority oppose laws requiring minors to notify a parent before getting an abortion.

"This is the toughest area for us in terms of public opinion," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Fund for the Feminist Majority, which is sponsoring the Bells' tour. "It's one of the reasons why we decided to launch this major campaign."

An ABC News/Washington Post poll last month found that 54 percent of those surveyed support a woman's right to have an abortion for any reason. But 79 percent of those polled said minors should be required by law to notify a parent before undergoing an abortion.

The reason for this difference on the issue, both abortion-rights and antiabortion forces contend, is that parental consent laws are widely viewed not as an abortion-rights issue but as a question of a parent's right to know.

"When parental consent or notification comes into it, it takes on the aura of a family value issue," said Neil Newhouse, a political consultant who has advised Republican candidates. "When it's couched in those terms, a candidate who opposes parental consent or notification appears to be taking an extreme position."

Fourteen states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming -- now enforce parental consent or notification laws.

Advocates on both sides of the issue predict that the Supreme Court's recent ruling that such laws are constitutional if they give minors a chance to ask a judge for an exemption could encourage more parental consent legislation around the country. Additional legislation is pending in Michigan and will be on the ballot in Colorado and Oregon.

Abortion-rights advocates argue that supporters of such laws ignore the impact on teenagers who come from abusive homes or who, like Becky Bell, fear they will disappoint their parents.

"There is just not a lot of information out there on this subject," Smeal said. "This has been a side issue, although a very costly issue, and a lot of people just knee-jerk think, 'Why sure, parents should be involved.' "

But abortion opponents contend that the support for parental consent laws reflects the ambivalence many Americans feel about abortion.

The Feminist Majority campaign "has a real possibility of backfiring, because it underlines the extremism of the pro-abortion position," said Burke Balch, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee. "We are both contenders for the views of the American public, and the American public at present doesn't fully share the views of either side."

With the Bells, a middle-class couple who say they probably would have approved of parental consent laws before their daughter died, abortion-rights advocates think they have a powerful tool for their cause.

"The Bells are the best spokesmen on this issue," said Kim Haddow, a political consultant who advises the National Abortion Rights Action League. "They had a healthy relationship with their daughter."

Abortion opponents argue that the laws help parents communicate with their teenagers and that cases like the Bells' are rare. "It's obviously not a common experience of most parents and teens confronting a difficult pregnancy, and obviously {abortion-rights advocates} are focusing on the extreme situation in order to sway public attention from the common experience," Balch said.

As part of the ongoing battle, abortion opponents also have questioned whether Becky Bell died from complications after an induced abortion, but Dennis Nicholas, coroner of Marion County, Ind., said, "The probability of her having had an induced abortion is about 99 percent -- at least."