Mahony Denounces Abortion at Downtown Prayer Vigil

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Archbishop Roger M. Mahony, speaking Wednesday at a downtown prayer vigil protesting abortion, denounced euthanasia, the weapons race and the death penalty--as well as abortion--on the 13th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized the practice.

"The sin of abortion is most deadly because it strikes at the very essence of God: creator and author of life," Mahony said. "Once any person concedes that a particular life is vulnerable to extinction--whether in the womb, in a glass container in some laboratory, in a hospital for the terminally ill--then all human life becomes vulnerable."

Also in marking the anniversary Wednesday, the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women announced that a major march will be held in Los Angeles March 16 "to show people that the majority of people in this country support birth control and legal abortion."

Thousands Expected

NOW officials said they expect several thousand marchers, representing 100 organizations from throughout the Western United States, to participate in the march, which will start in Century City.

Wednesday's anniversary also brought out about 30 demonstrators who protested increasing violence aimed at abortion clinics during a candlelight vigil at the Feminist Women's Health Center in Los Angeles.

"We will do everything in our power to make sure that women continue to have access to abortion, including defending and protecting clinics," said Sherry Katz, a spokeswoman for the group.

In El Monte, employees at an abortion clinic took two men into custody and turned them over to police after the men, part of a group of 25 anti-abortion demonstrators, "became so noisy they were disturbing staff and patients inside," police said.

More than 1,200 Catholic schoolchildren and their parents were bused in for the hourlong prayer service across from City Hall, which concluded with the singing of "We Are the World" and the release of 50 white pigeons and 50,000 white balloons. The event marked the Supreme Court's landmark Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973 making abortion legal during the first three months of pregnancy.

Bishops' Stance

Mahony has been an outspoken supporter of a stance developed by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops opposing what it sees as the ethically inconsistent beliefs of people who oppose abortion but support nuclear buildups and the death penalty.

"We are following a consistent ethic of human life when we protest all abortion, when we support laws and programs that protect the physically and mentally handicapped, when we offer services to the homeless and the hungry, when we speak out against all racism and discrimination, when we question the huge worldwide expenditures for weapons," he told the crowd.

He also pledged to expand the archdiocese's family planning program by training several hundred new couples in natural birth control education and to stress anew that the archdiocese is willing to help any pregnant woman who needs prenatal and postpartum care.

The event also featured Pastor Charles Mims, a black minister from the Tabernacle of Faith Baptist Church, handicapped marathon runner Pete Strudwick and, via tape, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove. There were also speakers in Spanish and Tagalog, as well as sign language translation for the deaf.

Kathy Spillar, president of the Los Angeles chapter of NOW, accused Mahony after a NOW press conference of trying to gain support for the anti-abortion movement by "attempting to link the abortion issue with issues that clearly are more progressive, such as concern for the poor."

'Women Would Die'

"He's saying you cannot be against the death penalty and be pro-choice," she said. "That just isn't true. Plus, what he doesn't mention is that women's lives are affected. If we ever made abortion illegal again, women would die."

In Beverly Hills, about 150 people paid $50 each to attend a reception at a private home Wednesday night to celebrate the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision.

Actress Susan Clark of television's "Webster" series told the gathering, sponsored by the California Abortion Rights Action League: "We are never going back to the danger and degradation of the back alley. We are never going to allow the clock to turn back. We are the majority and we will not allow the fanatical minority to quash our freedoms."

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