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Lining up to fight abortion

October 06, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Approximately 200 anti-abortion residents took to one of Hagerstown's busiest thoroughfares Sunday afternoon to peacefully spread their message to passing motorists.

Demonstrators gathered along a stretch of Dual Highway, spanning the Ames store to the Hagerstown Church of God, for a 60- to 90-minute show of support for unborn children.

Anti-abortionists from the Hagerstown area and more than 950 other cities through the United States and Canada took part in the National Life Chain Sunday, according to the National Life Chain Web site, www.nationallifechain.org. In Hagerstown, demonstrators held up signs bearing messages like "Abortion Kills Children," "Adoption: The Loving Option" and "Abortion Hurts Women" for passing motorists to see.

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"They've been the most underrepresented group of individuals in the history of mankind," city resident Kurt Heckman said.

The National Life Chain began in 1987 in Yuba City and Marysville, Calif., which are approximately 50 miles north of Sacramento, Calif. Last year, supporters from more than 900 cities and municipalities attended.

The Web site encourages attendees to be nonconfrontational and serious during Sunday's event.

"During the Life Chain hour, idle chatter, frivolity, and both verbal and physical responses to motorists are strongly discouraged," the Web site says. "Life Chain is a time for serious self-analysis, repentance and intercession."

Rob Smith, who has coordinated the event locally for the last seven of its 12 years in the city, said he believes it is important to continue having the event in the city because abortion has had a negative effect on the way women view motherhood and on American culture in general.

Smith also said he believed it was important to present the issue in a nonconfrontational manner to break the stereotypical view that many have of anti-abortion gatherings.

"We are just a peaceful reminder that we still have this issue in our country," Smith said.

Smith said he hopes local supporters can form a committee in the near future to organize parenting seminars and find ways to break through "terrible communication barriers" with area pro-choice residents.

Hagerstown resident Cindy Hill said she wanted to take part in the event because she believes many people forget that abortion does damage to two people.

"I just want people to think about abortion, about the babies and the women," Hill said. "It leaves scars (with the women), emotionally and physically."

Hill said the point of the Life Chain is not to attack women who have had abortions in the past, but rather to spread the message of defending future unborn children.

"We're not out here to say you're bad," Hill said. "For us as Christians, we believe Jesus forgives and heals."

The National Life Chain drew varying reactions locally. Some honked their horns and were supportive, some sneered and others continued driving without voicing or showing their feelings on the hot-button issue.

Debbie Kortright said she had not noticed any hostile motorists.

"There haven't been any negative people today. There have definitely been some at other ones," Kortright said.

Heckman said he did not have the same experience.

Heckman said though more people honked and gave the thumbs-up to him as they drove by, there were a few people who made obscene gestures. He said the latter did not diminish attendees' passion for being there.

"You just stand up quietly and make your statement known," Heckman said.

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