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Tustin Denies 2 Anti-Abortion Bids : ‘Cop-Out,’ Says Kelly as Council Turns Him Down

Times Staff Writer

The Tustin City Council refused Monday night to consider a highly controversial resolution that would have put the city on record as opposing a local family-planning clinic.

Voting 3 to 2, the council tabled the resolution by Councilman John Kelly, who called the Doctors Family Planning Clinic and its doctors “champions of infanticide.” The action prompted loud and prolonged applause by pro-choice advocates.

The council’s action came after 2 hours of emotional public debate before about 175 people on a similar measure aimed at endorsing repeal of Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortions. That resolution also was defeated 3 to 2.

Says City Could Be Sued

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Mayor Ursula Kennedy, in moving to table Kelly’s proposal, told her colleagues that Tustin City Atty. James G. Rourke had advised her that adoption of Kelly’s resolution could result in the city being sued by the clinic. She did not elaborate.

Kelly, angered when the vote did not go his way, shouted: “This is an unlawful cop-out.”

During testimony on the two motions before the council, anti-abortion activists quoted the Bible and showed graphic photographs of aborted fetuses.

“How can I teach children in my Sunday school that God loves them when people in their community are killing them?” asked Sheila Smith, a Tustin mother.

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A pro-choice contingent, which greatly outnumbered anti-abortionists in the packed council chambers, defended the clinic and questioned why the City Council was debating a national issue.

“I am one who chose abortion,” said Jeanette Reese of Tustin. “It was not an easy choice, but it was clearly the best choice at the time and was one that I was glad I could exercise.”

Many in the pro-choice group chose not to speak before the council. Instead, they applauded loudly whenever one of their number spoke.

All told, more than 25 speakers made their views on abortion known to council.

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Kelly’s proposal called for the council to formally declare that the city of Tustin disapproves “as morally reprehensible and as ethically unconscionable” the presence of the family planning clinic, where abortions are performed. It further requested that the owners of the building immediately break their lease with the clinic.

Kelly’s effort came as debate over abortion rages both locally and on the national level. Thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators with Operation Rescue, a New York-based anti-abortion group, and large numbers of pro-choice demonstrators went head-to-head at family planning clinics across the Southland last month to publicize their respective views.

Pro-choice activists also plan a major demonstration Sunday in Washington, D.C.

Nationally, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the appeal of a Missouri case, is preparing to reconsider the extent to which states may restrict a woman’s right to an abortion. Political observers believe that the conservative majority on the court may now attempt to scale back or even overturn Roe vs. Wade.

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Kelly rejected critics’ charges that he is grandstanding on the abortion issue.

“That’s ridiculous. The (people) that I’m standing up for aren’t even born yet, and they won’t be able to vote for me for at least 18 years,” Kelly said.

The other anti-abortion measure, sponsored by City Councilman Earl Prescott, called for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

“There has been no more divisive an issue in this country since the Civil War,” Prescott argued. “We have mothers turning against daughters and fathers against sons. We must let the debate begin. And as President Bush said, the debate should not center on just regional, state or federal levels, but the local town-hall level as well.”

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The Kelly measure asked the 11 partners who are landlords of the building known as the Santa Ana-Tustin Medical Pavilion to immediately rescind the clinic’s lease.

Mayor Kennedy and Councilmen Richard B. Edgar and Ronald Hoesterey voted against both resolutions, with Kelly and Prescott voting in favor.

Efforts to reach the owners of the building were unsuccessful Monday. City documents identify the partners as Karl Nishimura of Tustin and Robert Amato of Villa Park, along with W.L. Barville Jr., William T. Parks, Lawrence Lee, Donald R. Dicus, John H. Holiday, Edgar B. Steward, Carl Selin, Tad Lonergran and Lawrence A. Strait, all of Santa Ana.


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