In the early 1980s, the leadership of the antiabortion movement became involved in a campaign to establish legal rights to extraordinary medical care for seriously handicapped newborns. Armed with political contacts in the Reagan administration and Congress, and allied with advocates for the disabled, the antiabortion movement searched for a test case to guide through the courts. Antiabortion advocate Lawrence Washburn found such a case in Baby Jane Doe, who was being treated at Stony Brook Medical Center. The movement went on to amend the Child Abuse Act to include protections for handicapped newborns. Activists in the movement chose the issue of Baby Jane Doe because they believed it would attract welcome publicity, give them the appearance of supporting civil rights, and enhance their argument as to the legal rights of the fetus and thus strengthen the case against abortion. The movement was partially successful in obtaining its goals.

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