Sixteen years ago the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision legalizing abortion. Advocates and opponents of that decision gathered separately in Salt Lake City Saturday to celebrate and protest that ruling - one that some believe may soon be overturned.
"I think it's very promising right now," said Kent Christopherson of the Salt Lake Christian Action Council. The current makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court and the conservative views of the new Bush administration bring new hope for pro-life advocates, he said.A group of about 75 protesters walked around the Utah Women's Health Center block seven times Saturday morning in what they called a "Jericho March."
"Just as Joshua (in the Old Testament) broke the walls of Jericho down . . . we're trying to break down the walls of misinformation," Christopherson said.
But signs with slogans such as "Mothers - Give the gift for nine months. Don't carry the burden of abortion forever" contrasted with pro-choice signs later displayed on the steps of the State Capitol that said, "Legal abortion saves lives" and "Keep your hands off our bodies."
"We will not go back to the time . . . when women have to go to the back alleys to have unsafe, illegal abortions," Luci Malin told a group of about 200 pro-choice advocates.
"We will be silent no more," she said. "We will have our constitutional right to make decisions concerning our own bodies."
The group held its own "Pro-Choice March" from the Capitol to the Utah Women's Clinic at 511 S. Fourth East.
"Abortion is not our goal. I want a world of wanted and loved children," said the Rev. Barbara Bush, a Unitarian-Universalist minister. "If a religious authority tells you abortion is . . . a sin, seek a second opinion. Other opinions abound."
At the pro-life rally, Wendy Metzger of Magna said she or her husband usually protest the clinic every week. "I feel like there isn't a voice for the (unborn) children who don't have a voice," she said.
"We're not here to protest and scream at women . . . but to offer assistance."
"I'm a medical doctor and I know life begins at conception and what we're doing is horrendous," said Steve Seegers, who carried a sign saying the Women's Health Center was actually a "death center."
"They advertise women's health. I would debate that when they kill 11 people a day," he said.
But across town, Betsy Callahan, who teaches in the sociology department at the University of Utah, said that without legal abortion, many children are born into poverty, abuse and neglect.
Participants on both sides of the issue are anxiously awaiting word from the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear "Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services" - a case that the U.S. Justice Department and the state of Missouri have asked the court to use to overrule "Roe vs. Wade," the decision that legalized abortion nationally.