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Organizer says message remains strong for Life Chain

October 03, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - There were fewer human links in this year's Life Chain demonstration in Chambersburg, but organizer Sherry Cline believes more people are getting the anti-abortion message.

Several dozen people were spread along Lincoln Way East on Sunday - as opposed to a few hundred in past years - expressing their opposition to abortion with signs reading "Abortion Kills Children" and "Life: The First Inalienable Right."

Cline, the president of Franklin County Pennsylvanians for Human Life, blamed part of this year's low turnout on her organization's failure to get notices out to area churches in time for their newsletters.

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The Waynesboro, Pa., woman said that abortion and teen pregnancy rates in Pennsylvania and the county have fallen in recent years.

"There's been a 32 percent reduction in teen pregnancy in Franklin County" from the 1990s to 2002, said Cline, who is also the director of abstinence education for Pregnancy Ministries Inc. Quoting figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Bureau of Health Statistics and Research, she said teen pregnancies averaged 25.2 per 1,000 females between the ages of 15 and 17 in the county from 1993 to 1997, but declined to 16.3 per thousand by 2002.

Department of Health statistics showed abortion rates in Pennsylvania peaked in 1980 at 23.1 per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. The rate fell to 13.2 in 2000, but increased to 14 by 2003, according to department figures.

Franklin County had the lowest rate among Pennsylvania's 67 counties at 0.6 abortion per 1,000 women in 2003, according to the state.

For several of those taking part in the Life Chain, the issue is more personal.

"Had abortion been available in our day, neither one of us might have been born," said Judith Eckenrode of Chambersburg. Her husband Richard's mother was a widow facing a difficult birth and her own mother was unmarried, she said.

"We're killing the next generation," said Richard Eckenrode, who has cerebral palsy.

"There are markers on the graves there for the people who have died," but none for "the literally millions who have died from abortion," Judith Eckenrode said, looking across the highway at Lincoln Cemetery.

"I don't think most of the people realize what it is doing to our country," said Carl Myers of Chambersburg, using his sign to shield himself from a brilliant October sun. "It cheapens life ... which affects every other area of our lives."

"Last year, when I was holding my sign, I was pregnant with her," said Emily Shew of Chambersburg, referring to her 8-month-old daughter, Faith. She said she has been participating in the Life Chain for more than a decade, since she was in high school.

Shew and others said they did not hear any negative comments from motorists, but Ronald Gardner of Chambersburg said, "Today was the worst negative feedback we've ever had."

"You people are scary," Gardner said one person told him.

Despite the turnout, Cline said those passing by saw the signs and got the message.

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