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Tri-State residents march in rally for abortion rights

April 26, 2004|By BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON - Tri-State residents were among several hundred thousand men and women from around the nation and the world who gathered to rally for abortion rights in Washington on Sunday.

"I'm a little hoarse. I was pretty loud down there," Hagerstown resident Lorrie Nelson said while traveling home on a bus Sunday evening. "It was very exciting to see that many women and men, young and old.

"It's important that we still have the right to choose," Nelson said.

Linda Smith, a Hagerstown resident and an organizer with the National Organization for Women, said the local interest in Sunday's rally was the most overwhelming in her 20 years of attending such events.

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"There wasn't nearly this amount of interested people in the past," Smith said. "They are really upset about the partial-birth bill and the fetal rights bills."

Smith said a group of people from Washington and Frederick counties and Franklin County, Pa., were among those who took a bus to Washington for Sunday's gathering.

There was a rally at 10 a.m. at the National Mall, a march that passed the White House and a second rally at the mall in the afternoon, she said.

Smith and others, such as John Warner of Williamsport, said they believed attending the rally was especially important this year because many supporters of abortion rights believe if President Bush is re-elected, he could have a hand in changing abortion laws. Both said they fear there will be repercussions if liberal Supreme Court justices retire while Bush is president.

"He will appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, and they're only one vote away from throwing Roe V. Wade back to the states," Warner said.

Women joined the protest from across the nation and from nearly 60 countries, asserting that damage from Bush's policies is spreading far beyond U.S. shores through measures such as the ban on federal money for family-planning groups that promote or perform abortions abroad.

Ben Culbertson, a Greencastle, Pa., resident and a teacher at Hagerstown Community College, said this rally was the largest and most organized of the three he has attended.

Culbertson attended the rally with his children, Liana, 5, and Miles, 7.

"I want to protect the rights of my daughter and her children," Culbertson said. "We've talked to them before about values and living passively under values. We tried to show them we act under what we believe."

Diane Morgan of Williamsport said she was pleased to see a diverse crowd that included many men.

"It was great to see all the men there supporting the rights of women," Morgan said. "There was a larger proportion of men, especially young men, than I've seen in the past."

Morgan also said she thought it was "fun" to see those from the other side of the issue during their march past the White House. She said many of them chanted and prayed and held up signs with photos of "what they called aborted fetuses."

"That's what democracy is all about," she said.

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