More than 100 members of area evangelical churches, many with small children in tow, marched Saturday infront of St. Mark's Hospital to protest the facility's policies on abortions.
The hospital, formerly owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Utah but now owned by the Hospital Corporation of America, was selected as the site for this year's annual Pastors' Protest Against Abortion because of its policy on performing abortions, according to a protest spokeswoman."I hope they'll see there's a lot of public sentiment against abortion, and I hope they'll take that into consideration," said LeeAnn Cheeley, president of the Salt Lake Christian Action Council, which organized the protest.
The protesters seek an end to all abortions at the hospital, except in cases when pregnancy is life-threatening, but are especially concerned about St. Mark's policy of performing abortions through the 24th week of pregnancy.
Cheeley said that it is the only local hospital she is aware of that will allow a woman to have an abortion past the 12th week of pregnancy. She labeled the policy liberal.
No hospital administrators were available for comment on the protest Saturday, but a nursing supervisor confirmed that the hospital does perform "therapeutic" abortions through the second trimester of pregnancy.
An 11-year-old hospital policy statement on abortion defines a therapeutic abortion as " . . . preventing serious damage to the pregnant woman's health."
But before any abortion can be performed, the hospital policy requires that the request be reviewed by a panel that includes the hospital chaplain and a psychiatrist.
The protest culminated at noon with the releasing of some 3,100 black balloons from an office parking lot across the street from St. Mark's. Each balloon represented an abortion performed in Utah this year.
Those participating in the protest included men and women of all ages and a number of children. Many protesters, including some of the children, carried signs.
A small child wore a sign labeled, "Former Fetus" around her neck, while several placards compared legalized abortion to the Holocaust or suggested, "Doctors Should Give Lives, Not Take Them."