Abortion Issue Divides City Both Sides Of Roe Vs. Wade Debate Hold Peaceful Demonstrations To Mark Anniversary Of Court Ruling
Both sides of the abortion debate held peaceful rallies Sunday afternoon in Spokane to mark the 22nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
An estimated 1,800 people met at 2 p.m. outside Deaconess Medical Center, where abortions are performed, to march and protest the Roe vs. Wade decision.
Two hours later, about 275 people gathered at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church to remember two workers killed Dec. 30 at abortion clinics in Brookline, Mass., and to call for an end to clinic picketing.
“I’m a believer in non-violence, so I’m here as a peacekeeper,” said Tom Schmidt of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane. “It’s been a very peaceful crowd. I wasn’t that worried, but you never can tell.”
The two groups were on opposite sides of the abortion issue, but they were similar in appearance. Some were young, some were old and many wore crosses. Members of the clergy preached to both groups.
Those in the anti-abortion march carried children, pushed bikes and held signs high. After marching around Deaconess, they walked to the U.S. Court House, where they listened to speakers, sang hymns and prayed.
Several people carried large pictures of the sacred heart of Jesus on one side and the immaculate heart of Mary on the other. One man carried a spear poking through a bloody blond-haired baby doll.
Carol A. Hemphill and Maryann Adams of Children of the Immaculate Heart passed out pamphlets and colorful homemade rosary beads to marchers at the corner of Fifth and Lincoln.
“If we were at a concert right now passing out messages or pamphlets, I’d be getting death threats,” said organizer Hemphill. “You come to something like this, everybody has a smile.”
Matt Moran certainly did. He carried his 3-yearold son, who wore a sign stating “God loves all” pinned to his jacket. This was Moran’s first march.
“It’s important just to begin to make an active stand,” said Moran, also joined by his wife, 7-yearold daughter and 10-year-old son. “I’ve been prolife for a long time and I’ve never said or done anything about it. … The number of abortions occurring in our country is just mind-boggling, more than ever before.”
The number of abortions actually has dropped since a peak in 1990 of about 1.6 million abortions, according to the most recent numbers available. There were about 1.53 million abortions in 1992. The ratio of abortions per 1,000 live births also has dropped, from a high of 436 in 1983 to 379 in 1992.
Dan Kennedy, president of Right to Life in Spokane, said the numbers don’t tell the story.
“The real tragedy of abortion is not measured in numbers,” he told the crowd. “That is a statistician’s mentality. A human being should never be reduced to a statistic.”
Organizers said the anti-abortion march had attracted more people than ever before - about 4,000. Police estimated the crowd at 1,800.
The abortion rights service was smaller and private. Although the groups originally planned a rally that would have started at the U.S. Court House, those plans were canceled after the shootings in Brookline.
Joyce Cameron, community relations director for Planned Parenthood, said she knew people who didn’t come to the service because they were afraid of violence. Still, she said she was pleased with the turnout and the support of the clergy.
Supporters held candles and signs. The service started outside the church and moved inside, where people sang and listened to speeches.
Cara Powell and Heidi Purcell, both 17, said they wanted to show support for the abortion rights movement. They said many young people aren’t aware of the consequences if abortion no longer were legal.
“Of course you’d have black-market abortions,” Purcell said. “It wouldn’t be safe.”
Schmidt was a professor in rural Alabama before the Supreme Court decision. Two people in town performed illegal abortions, he said.
“I knew women back then who tried to perform abortions on themselves using coat hangers, lye douches, starving themselves,” he said. “It was not uncommon.”
MEMO: A sidebar appeared with this story under the headline: “Most black abortions.”
A sidebar appeared with this story under the headline: “Most black abortions.”