A coalition of antiabortion groups drew about 1,500 demonstrators to the state capital tonight to protest state-funded abortions and to showcase the potential political clout of the their movement during this election year.
Jim Wright, executive director of the conservative Family Protection Lobby, which organized the march along with Right-to-Life of Maryland and the Concerned Women of America, was cheered when he told the crowd bearing candles to "get out of the pulpit, out of the pews, and into the precincts."
He announced the formation of a political action committee, to be called StateHouse Pac, that will support state legislative candidates who oppose abortion, as well as to target for defeat lawmakers who support a woman's right to have an abortion.
Wright told the demonstrators that StateHouse Pac, unveiled last month at a rally in Baltimore featuring conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, already has raised $50,000 toward its $250,000 goal, and he urged the marchers to contribute on the spot. The rally's speakers, including WMAL sports announcer Johnny Holliday and former Lt. Gov. Sam Bogley, also renewed the annual call to end Maryland's policy of allowing the use of state funds for abortions for poor women in the case of rape, incest, genetic fetal defect or a threat to the mother's health.
This year's rally, which drew about as many participants as last year's, according to state buildings and ground police estimates, but far fewer than the 5,000 organizers had hoped, comes at a time when lawmakers on both sides of the abortion issue have tried to defuse the bitter annual debate over state funding for abortion.
During the summer, leaders of the antiabortion and abortion rights factions together developed a proposal to combat teen-age pregnancy through additional funds for counseling and to improve prenatal care for young, poor women who become pregnant. Despite broad support for the proposal, which more than two-thirds of the legislature supported, the groups demonstrating today have opposed the plan. Earlier this winter the Family Protection Lobby sent out a fund-raising letter accusing two of the proponents, both fervent abortion foes, of having "capitulated to Planned Parenthood's agenda."