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Abortion-Rights Groups Plan Rally

Abortion-rights groups and other progressive lobbies are organizing a post-Thanksgiving assault on Capitol Hill to press lawmakers to keep restrictive language on abortion out of the final health care package.

The coalition has scheduled a “National Day of Action” on Dec. 2 that will include a rally at the Capitol as well as visits by activists from around the country to lawmakers’ offices.

The event comes as abortion-rights groups seek to regroup and energize their members after being blindsided by the House decision to add anti-abortion language to its health care bill. They are now figuring out how they can keep similar language out of the Senate bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to unveil his health care plan as early as today. A number of moderate Democrats have warned that it would be difficult to pass a bill out of that chamber unless it contains similar language on abortion to what was adapted by the House.

Last week, representatives from at least 20 progressive groups met at the Planned Parenthood offices to map out strategy, which includes the Capitol event.

Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, said abortion-rights advocates decided they needed to have a visible show of support for abortion rights rather than just rely on quiet lobbying.

“Behind the scenes got us health care for half the population and anti-abortion law for the rest of us,” she said. “We’re not out there enough. We have to demonstrate this is huge. I have been getting calls from people who are just beside themselves.”

She said that coalition officials were scrambling to put the event together, including organizing caravans to take people to Washington, D.C., from around the country.

Tait Sye, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood, said many of the details of the Capitol event have yet to be worked out, including what speakers may be invited.

The coalition includes abortion-rights groups and other liberal organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, MoveOn.org, the Service Employees International Union, Catholics for Choice, the National Council of Jewish Women and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Even before the December event, a number of abortion-rights groups have been ratcheting up the pressure on lawmakers.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is launching television ads today that call on voters who favor abortion rights to contact Senators.

The spots will be running on cable television in the D.C. market and on a number of Internet sites.

Nancy Northrup, president of the center, said that abortion-rights activists were surprised by the House action and have since sought to galvanize their membership.

“It has been a game changer,” she said of the House vote.

Northrup said the visits to her organization’s Web site quintupled after the House action. She said the group also embarked on a round of fundraising last week. She said it was too early to tell how much money has been raised because of the issue.

NARAL Pro-Choice America also issued a call for money on its Web site to finance the lobbying effort in Washington.

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