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Opinions differ on 'truth' about abortion

June 21, 2005|by HEATHER KEELS

heatherk@herald-mail.com

When Hagerstown mom Angelique Bowman first spotted the posters of bloody aborted fetuses Monday afternoon as she strolled down West Washington Street holding the hands of her sons Dushion, 2, and Thavies, 5, she was shocked.

"I got a little annoyed because they are so graphic," said Bowman, 28. "I had my kids with me and I didn't expect to see that."

But a few blocks, some conversations with the protesters and a pamphlet later, Bowman said she was convinced that the images were "what it takes" to convey what the protesters call "the truth" about abortion.

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"I never realized that this is what it looks like, that it takes so much mutilation," Bowman said.

Reactions such as Bowman's were what members of the Baltimore-based anti-abortion group Defend Life were after when they set up their posters along West Washington Street. The display stretched for several blocks on either side of the Hagerstown Reproductive Health Services clinic at 160 W. Washington St. from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Hagerstown was the group's second stop on its fifth annual Face the Truth Tour, and Defend Life directors said the city is typically one of the most receptive to its message. At other stops, such as downtown Washington and Baltimore, Defend Life Director Missy Smith said, people frequently curse, yell and spit at the protesters, but honks of support and shouts of "God bless you" could be heard on West Washington Street.

"I like the area because even if people disagree with you, they're polite about it," said Albert Stecklein III, who had come from Bethesda, Md., to hand out fliers on his fifth Face the Truth Tour. "It gives you a little boost."

Diane Silas, a spokeswoman for the reproductive health clinic, said she supported the protesters' right to free speech, but disagreed profoundly with their definition of "the truth" about abortion.

"The truth also includes the idea that an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy is an extraordinary difficulty for some women under some circumstances," Silas said. She also disagreed with the protesters' argument that women suffer physically and mentally from abortions, saying she knows of no research that supports the claim.

Some motorists and pedestrians also expressed concern about exposing their children to the images.

"My son's very distressed about the signs," Linda Brown of Hagerstown yelled from her car window, gesturing to a wide-eyed boy in the back seat.

A block away, 11-year-old protester Kimberly Mose was a little wide-eyed, too.

"It's been hard to do, because of all these horrid pictures," she said, glancing at the photo of a severed head, labeled "abortion at 30 weeks." "But I'm glad I'm doing it, to save the babies," she said, holding a rosary.

"I think it's important that (children) realize that these things happen, and that life is precious," said her mother, Angela Mose of Hagerstown, who pushed her 1-year-old in a stroller and held her 3- and 5-year-olds by the hands. "They need to learn early."

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