Both Sides Plan to Continue S.D. Abortion Fight
Anti-abortion activists in San Diego said Monday that they are encouraged by the U. S. Supreme Court’s decision limiting abortions, but plan to continue the demonstrations that have brought hundreds of arrests outside local clinics.
Meanwhile, San Diego pro-choice advocates gathered at a press conference to denounce the decision as a blow to poor women and an infringement on women’s rights.
“It’s an attack on poor women, because those women who can afford to pay for their own medical care will continue to have access to abortions,” said Lenore Lowe, director of community affairs for Planned Parenthood of San Diego.
“It is those women who cannot afford medical care who are most severely being hit by the court today,” Lowe said. “We’ve been in a war for a long time. This has just upped the ante.”
States in the Fray
Lowe said the decision, which grants increased power to states to regulate abortions, will put state legislators at the center of the controversy.
“They really thought they were off the hook for a number of years,” she said, “but they’re not off the hook. The court has clearly said, ‘It’s back in your domain, and you deal with it.’ ”
Dr. Michael G. Forrester, a head and neck surgeon from Fallbrook and an anti-abortion activist, said Monday that “the political arena will definitely intensify.” Past efforts to lobby legislators on the abortion issue have been ineffective, he said, “mostly because of the bottleneck at the Supreme Court.”
“I was pleased that the question of the legality of abortion was returned to the people,” Forrester said.
Forrester, a member of the local Operation Rescue--formerly called Project Rescue--has been arrested while blockading abortion clinics during three of the group’s four demonstrations this year. He said that Operation Rescue will proceed with plans to hold a rally Friday night and a demonstration outside a clinic Saturday at an undisclosed location in the San Diego area.
Hundreds of the activists from the group have been arrested while blockading clinics in the San Diego area since their first demonstration last April.
Forrester predicted that while other states will outlaw abortion “in a very short period of time,” California will remain “an abortion haven.”
“Operation Rescue doesn’t enjoy breaking the law,” he said. “It’s just that it’s the most effective method (of stopping abortions) right now.”
Bishop Leo T. Maher, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, issued a statement saying that he is “heartened by today’s victory for life.”
The statement said: “By its action, the court has begun to correct the gross imbalance imposed by Roe vs. Wade on our legal system and has indicated a new willingness to defer to legislatures’ responsible efforts to protect unborn human life.”
About a dozen pro-choice advocates gathered for the press conference downtown Monday morning to denounce the decision.
Among them was Ruth Rominger, director of Womancare Clinic, who said the availability of abortions in San Diego will not be immediately affected.
“This decision could set back women’s rights by decades,” Rominger said. “It is a confusing ruling that says a woman has a right to an abortion but that it’s OK for state governments to restrict and prevent poor women from receiving abortions.
“This case has sounded the alarm throughout pro-choice America. Women’s rights are threatened.”
Betty Wheeler, legal director of the San Diego office of the American Civil Liberties Union, also denounced the decision, calling it “an attack against everyone who values personal privacy and reproductive freedom . . .”
“Women will not passively accept this serious erosion of fundamental rights,” she said.
Elsewhere in Southern California, strong and intensely emotional reactions to the court’s ruling surfaced, with both sides agreeing that states’ new power to place restrictions on abortion will make the issue a highly visible one. Still, both pro-choice and anti-abortion rallies drew relatively small mid-day crowds of about 100 each. The dominant feeling was that it will be months before the impact in California is known.
It was clear, though, that more people have felt the call to action on the abortion issue here in recent months as the court’s decision neared. The Southern California branch of the California Abortion Rights Action League has seen its membership jump from 6,000 to 8,000 in the past four months. Hundreds were arrested to show their devotion to the anti-abortion cause during Operation Rescue’s clinic sit-ins in Southern California in May and June.
At least one manager of a Planned Parenthood clinic said she would urge patients to write letters to their elected representatives. And several women there for pregnancy tests said they intended to do just that.
At a flurry of press conferences and in telephone interviews, the ruling brought forth strong words from those already involved in the abortion battle.
“The court said today that the right to privacy in the United States is for men only,” said Kathy Spillar, Santa Monica-based national coordinator for the Fund for the Feminist Majority. She said her group is considering sponsorship of a ballot initiative to support California’s current abortion laws as “a preemptive strike,” though she added, “It’s a calculated risk.”
‘2 Classes of Care’
“It’s a sad, sad situation,” said Keith Russell, chairman of the medical committee of Planned Parenthood. Allowing states to ban public funding of abortions and prohibit abortions in public hospitals “means you’ve got two classes of medical care.”
By contrast, Susan Carpenter McMillan, president of the Right to Life League of Southern California, said: “It’s wonderful that we have taken this to the state level. We’re going to make sure we keep our (anti-abortion politicians) in line. There’s not going to be one pro-life representative who is not going to be visited by us. There will be no more fence-straddling.”
McMillan said the concerns expressed by the pro-choice side that poor women will be most hard hit by the decision are not valid. “I don’t think poor women should be allowed to kill their unborn children any more than rich women,” she said. “The pro-abortion people should finance their abortions if they’re so concerned about the poor.”
The Coalition for Safe and Legal Abortion organized a vigil and rallies outside the district office of Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti.
Roberti issued a statement saying that he supports “the thrust” of the Supreme Court’s decision and adding: “I also believe that the state must go further in guaranteeing to all children the right to shelter, health care, a secure home and freedom from hunger.”