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Anti-abortion demonstration attracts some, offends others

July 27, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Barbara and Robert Shipley were downtown Monday afternoon when they came across the annual Defend Life Face the Truth Tour and asked organizers if they could join in the anti-abortion demonstration.

Barbara Shipley referred to abortion as "ghastly." Her son, Robert Shipley, said they believe abortion is murder.

Angela Swagler, 19, of Erie, Pa., is one of the tour's organizers. The group of 23 tour members made its first stop Monday morning in Charles Town, W.Va., before heading to Hagerstown. They were planning to demonstrate in Frederick, Md., on Monday afternoon. The tour is scheduled to make stops through Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania through Friday, she said.

"I believe that abortion is wrong, that abortion is murder. I want it to end in my lifetime," Swagler said.

Most of the demonstrators held signs, some bearing graphic pictures of aborted fetuses, and others held signs bearing images of healthy babies that read "God's Gift of Life."

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The demonstration stretched from the corner of West Washington Street and Burhans Boulevard to the corner of West Washington and Jonathan streets.

Richard Schaefer of Cearfoss was driving through town to work Monday when he saw the demonstrators.

"The pictures themselves I thought were abhorrent," he said.

While he agrees with the right-to-life message, Schaefer said he believes the pictures were distasteful.

He saw some young children holding the signs.

"Having kids holding signs is really, really pushing basic civilized manner of doing things," he said.

Schaefer called The Herald-Mail and the mayor's office Monday afternoon. The mayor's office told him the demonstrators had a right to be there to exercise their freedom of speech.

With that right comes responsibilities, and young children and people who might be squeamish should not be exposed as they ride through town, Schaefer said.

Jack Ames, who founded Defend Life in 1987 and then started organizing the tour several years ago, said the tour aims to show what abortion really is because it is largely covered up by the media and academia.

"It is the deliberate, complete destruction of an innocent, perfectly formed, preborn baby," Ames said.

Theresa Ramsey of Chambersburg, Pa., came to Hagerstown for the demonstration. She opposes abortion and believes that adoption is the better option, she said.

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