Citizens rally for and against abortion rights

Capitol steps turn into venue for signs, speeches about Roe v. Wade

Posted: Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Capitol steps were the scene Friday and Saturday afternoons for dueling demonstrations about abortion rights.

About 100 people turned out in the icy rain Friday for a demonstration opposing abortion. The day before the 32nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, some carried signs reading: "God is pro life" and "It's a child not a choice."

Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, a former president and current board member of Alaska Right to Life, said abortion and euthanasia have created a culture of death in America. He called on Republicans and Democrats to come together to pass anti-abortion legislation.

"The right to life shouldn't be a partisan issue," he said.

Other lawmakers who attended the rally include: Reps. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer, Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla, John Coghill, R-North Pole, Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, Mike Kelly, R-Fairbanks, and Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome.

Catholic Bishop Michael Warfel of Juneau said abortion is "gravely immoral" and that to continue sanctioning the practice of abortion will have "far-reaching consequences."

"The culture in which we live is an ecology," he said. "If we reject the value and dignity of human life, we build our culture on a lie and its structures cannot long endure."

Trish Short, 51, of Baltimore, was brought as a special guest speaker to the Friday rally. The self-described former actress and model told the crowd she's had two abortions.

"I was used as an instrument for destruction," she said, comparing the practice of abortion to the deaths of millions of Jews in the Holocaust.

On Saturday, about 60 people gathered at the Silverbow restaurant to raise funds for a Planned Parenthood clinic in Juneau, hear speeches, and see Rep. Les Gara, D-Anch., win an award for his support of women's right to choose abortions. A crowd later walked in the rain to the Capitol for more speeches.

"Roe vs Wade / It's About More Than Abortion," a sign read.

Karen Kelly, chairwoman of the Juneau Pro-Choice Coalition, told supporters that the rally is to remind themselves that they have to keep working to keep abortion and other reproductive rights legal.

The coalition also is in the business of preventing abortions through sex education and prevention programs about pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, she said in an interview.

It is a partner with Planned Parenthood of Alaska. Together they have raised $80,000 toward the $125,000 goal of funding a local match for a large donation that would fund a reproductive health care clinic in Juneau.

"We've heard a lot about morality lately," Anna Franks, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Alaska, told supporters. "The extreme right wants us to think the two tests for morality are gay rights and abortion rights. Pro-choice is a moral position."

When a woman is raped, or can't support a child, abortion is the moral choice, she said.

Franks said there is a real threat to render abortion illegal in the United States. She cited state laws that require waiting periods and parental consent, abstinence programs that prohibit talk of contraceptives, and limits to stem-cell research.

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