Tue, Jan 24, 2006 - Page 7 News List

US abortion activists take to the streets

CONTENTIOUS ISSUE The 33rd anniversary of the `Roe v. Wade' case which led to the legalization of abortion, saw protests, both for and against, across the nation

AP , ST PAUL, MINNESOTA

Ellia Garcia holds a sign as she walks with a group of anti-abortion demonstrators on Sunday in San Benito, Texas. The gathering marked the 33rd anniversary of `Roe v. Wade', the US Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

PHOTO: AP

Thousands of abortion opponents massed outside Minnesota's Capitol in one of several protests across the US on the 33rd anniversary of the US Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, amid heightened hopes and fears over what a new face on the Supreme Court will mean for abortion rights.

A crowd of sign-wavers turned out on Sunday to call for a ban on public funding of abortion.

``We must stop abortion in our state,'' said Scott Fischbach, head of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life. ``Things are changing in this country.''

Many abortion opponents said they were heartened by US President George W. Bush's choice of Samuel Alito to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate who was often the court's swing vote.

Alito, who appears to have solid support from the Senate's Republican majority, refused during his confirmation hearings to agree with assertions by Democrats that Roe v. Wade was ``settled law,'' upsetting supporters of abortion rights and heartening opponents.

In San Francisco, thousands of abortion opponents shouldering signs with slogans such as ``Peace Begins in the Womb'' marched on Saturday, while abortion rights supporters along the march route waved clothes hangers and shouted ``Bigots go home.''

``Abortion rights have been slowly whittled away while we haven't even been looking,'' said Kitty Striker, 22, who decorated her hair with small coat hanger replicas for the counter-protest. ``That's what's so shocking and so scary to me.''

In Idaho, nearly 400 abortion protesters marched at the Statehouse on Saturday, including Reid Richardson and his five-year-old stepdaughter, Allie Zebley, who carried a sign with her ultrasound photo and the words, ``This is me at 16 weeks.''

About half that number gathered on Sunday outside the Idaho Capitol in support of abortion rights.

``When American women are barred from accessing health services at the whim of a politician's religious beliefs, we are not in a democracy at all,'' said Bree Herndon-Michael, a member of the Idaho Women's Network.

The largest abortion demonstration was expected yesterday in Washington D.C., where anti-abortion activists planned to converge on the mall to hear speeches and then march on the Congress and Supreme Court.

Many who support abortion rights held a candlelight vigil in front of the Supreme Court on Sunday night, waving signs that read: ``Alito-No Justice For Women,'' and ``Keep Abortion Legal.''

The US high court made abortion legal on Jan. 22, 1973 but efforts to restrict or outlaw the procedure have been succesful. To date 34 states have passed laws requiring parents either to be notified or to give consent when their underage daughters seek abortions.

This year, abortion opponents in Minnesota will try to encourage the Legislature to ban public funding of abortions for Medicaid recipients, which has been required since a 1995 state Supreme Court decision. They are also campaigning against the re-election of a justice who supported the decision.

In Michigan, a group of ministry leaders used the anniversary to launch a new anti-abortion organization, Michigan Chooses Life. One goal is to support efforts to get a measure on the 2006 ballot that would change the state Constitution to legally define a person as existing at the moment of conception. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has said that even if the measure does succeed, it will be challenged in court.

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