Abortion Supporters and Foes Mark Landmark Decision
Undated (AP) _ Church bells will toll Tuesday in Fargo, N.D., to protest the 12th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, while in 18 states, pro-choice supporters pledged to continue their protests against violence and vandalism at abortion centers.
As anti-abortionist clergy stage a symbolic funeral of a fetus in Portland, Ore., a coalition of religious and women’s rights groups plans a prayer breakfast in a downtown Topeka, Kan., church.
But on the eve of the anniversary, activists on both sides said they wanted above all to avoid the violence that has plagued the issue with increasing regularity in recent months.
On Monday, abortion rights supporters ended a vigil that had lasted more than 60 hours at the Fargo Women’s Health Organization, but clinic staff said a security guard would remain on duty to ward off any vandalism. Three men were arrested Saturday in connection with eight anti-abortion bombings in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland in the past year.
At least 24 such bombing attacks have occurred since last January, and the National Organization for Women sponsored round-the-clock vigils at 25 family planning centers and abortion clinics in 18 states to protest the violence.
Women holding a vigil outside the Hollywood Feminist Women’s Health Center in Los Angeles said they planned to keep watch at least through Tuesday.
Security was increased at the Pilgrim Medical Group in Montclair, N.J. ″We’re going to have guards three days a week now, and we’ve advised the staff that they can’t be lax,″ said Joe DeBlasi, a security and personnel consultant at the clinic.
″I think the bombs are obviously to create fear for a whole lot of people - women who seek services, personnel who provide services - and that is deeply saddening,″ said Sarah Weddington, the attorney who argued the landmark case of Jane Roe before the Supreme Court in October 1972.
The court’s decision on Jan. 22, 1973, overturned a Texas law that had outlawed abortions except to save the life of the mother.
″I do think they’re having an effect,″ she said of the bombings in an interview in Washington on Monday. ″I don’t think people are changing their conduct as a result. I just think they’re living with their fears, and that’s sad to me that they have to do that.″
Ms. Weddington, who was President Jimmy Carter’s special assistant for women’s issues, now represents Texas Gov. Mark White in Washington.
In Beverly Hills, the California Abortion Rights League planned a celebrity gala Monday night to celebrate the anniversary of the abortion decision, with actresses Teri Garr, Sharon Gless and Karen Grassle among those planning to attend.
In Cleveland, abortion advocates planned a potluck supper for Tuesday night at Cleveland State University where they will listen to music and write letters to elected officials thanking them for support.
A few blocks away, the Greater Cleveland Right-to-Life chapter will hold its annual ″Respect of Life″ memorial service at the Masonic Temple auditorium.
NOW planned a reception Tuesday in San Diego featuring Rep. Bill Green, D- N.Y., co-sponsor of the Reproductive Health Equity Act. The proposed legislation would provide financing for abortions for American Indian women, women in the military and women on medicare.
While the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights in Kansas holds its prayer breakfast, members of Kansans for Life plan to picket outside. The anti-abortion group also will be at the statehouse Tuesday handing out red roses to legislators and talking to them about right-to-life positions.
Another statehouse protest is planned for Trenton, N.J., by 50 members of the state chapter of Feminists for Life.
A march by anti-abortion forces is planned at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta. Gov. Joe Frank Harris was to meet with the demonstrators when they arrived to present them with a proclamation declaring Tuesday ″Respect for Life Day″ in Georgia.
Members of the Arizona right-to-life organization and the Arizona NOW chapter plan demonstrations at the state capitol. The abortion foes will show the 20-minute movie, ″Silent Screams,″ throughout the day. The film purports to show a fetus experiencing pain as it is being aborted.
The NOW representatives will be lobbying legislators against further laws restricting abortions.
NOW members in Philadelphia plan a candelight vigil at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul to protest the Roman Catholic church’s involvement in the anti-abortion movement.