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Anti-abortion rally staged

Defend Life used graphic posters to spread its message.

Defend Life used graphic posters to spread its message.

August 13, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Not everyone appreciated the large, graphic posters of aborted fetuses lining West Washington Street during a rally Monday.

A woman driving children in a minivan swerved into a propped-up sign, knocking it to the ground, then continued on her way.

A man stuck his head out of a slow-moving car to yell at those protesting abortion.

There were supporters, too, in the midday downtown traffic. Some motorists honked horns in approval. Others gave a thumbs-up.

This was the second year that Defend Life sponsored a "Face the Truth Tour," taking its anti-abortion cause from city to city.

Defend Life describes itself on its Web site as a "Catholic," "pro-life" and "pro-family" organization.

Monday afternoon, about six people from Defend Life and 40 or so local volunteers stood with giant signs for eastbound traffic to see.

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An array of posters along West Washington Street started at Prospect Street and continued past Summit Avenue, almost to the square.

A few volunteers held up signs warning motorists coming from different directions that graphic images were ahead.

Hagerstown residents Lucie Anderson, 78, and Romula Ott, 42, stood with a poster showing a happy baby's face under the caption "Life."

Ott said she had one of the tamer posters because she was with her children - Birgitta, 11, Benedikt, 8, and Matthias, 5.

Ott said she was protesting to "speak for those who cannot speak for themselves."

Down the block, Dot Montgomery, 59, of Charles Town, W.Va., held up a graphic poster of an aborted fetus. She said she felt "privileged" to display the image "because this is what it's about."

"You see a baby in pieces," she said. "It's not a blob."

It probably wasn't a coincidence that the rally was on the same block as Hagerstown Reproductive Services, a clinic where abortions are performed, said Diane Silas, the center's administrator.

"They say that the fetus matters," she said. "I understand the fetus matters, but I think that the pregnant woman matters more."

Silas said the rally didn't rattle the center or its clients.

"Now that anti-abortionists have included shooting doctors, by comparison, this is low-key," she said.

Silas said she had "no way to counter" the protesters' message, no pictures of a woman "whose life has been compromised and life has been given back" to display.

The tour started Monday morning in Winchester, Va., before coming to Hagerstown. It was scheduled to finish the day in Frederick, Md.

The six-day tour will stop elsewhere in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia and Washington, D.C., said Kristen Hussle, 21, of Eldersburg, Md., an event organizer.

Libby Fitz, 42, of Hagerstown, said she was "nauseated" by the images she saw downtown. She said she didn't see the warning signs.

Fitz said the posters sparked a discussion about abortion when her 7-year-son, Noah Stouffer, became curious.

"He said, 'Mommy, why couldn't they do it with words?,'" said Fitz, who said she later called Hagerstown Police.

The police department received just one complaint, Sgt. George Knight said.

He said the posters weren't pornographic and the protesters were not breaking any laws, so the police didn't stop them.

"We're not a bunch of freaks who enjoy these pictures," Hussle said. "We think they're disgusting, too."

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