Antiabortion activists and local family planning providers marked the 27th anniversary of Roe v. Wade yesterday with continued wrangling over whether demonstrations outside clinics interfere with women's access to abortion and other services.
The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, 46, of Fredericksburg, joined about 80 demonstrators in front of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington to condemn--and tear up a copy of--an injunction issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ordering protesters to observe a 20-foot "buffer" outside area abortion clinics.
"We are here this day because children are dying in this place," said Mahoney, a defendant in the case, standing outside the downtown clinic but beyond a pair of orange pylons designating the 20-foot zone. "Tell the Clinton administration and the Justice Department we will not be bullied. We will not be silent."
Mahoney's Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition was joined by Catholic Priests for Life and Rock for Life, whose members are in Washington for tomorrow's annual March for Life to protest the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision preventing states from outlawing abortion. The groups called the injunction an infringement on free speech.
But Jatrice Martel Gaiter, president of the D.C. chapter of Planned Parenthood, praised Kessler's ruling and thanked D.C. police for enforcing "vigorous protection" of the clinic during the protesters' morning rally.
"I am absolutely appalled that 27 years after Roe v. Wade, we are still facing this kind of sidewalk demonstration as to whether a woman should have a right to determine when and whether to have a child," Gaiter said from the clinic, at 16th and L streets NW.
Citing the clinic's prenatal, contraceptive and other health services, Gaiter complained, "We had patients this morning who had to walk through this gantlet of people with their jackets over the heads, as if they were perpetrators, just to come see a doctor."
She said the center has spent $20,000 to install bulletproof glass and closed-circuit video cameras to increase security at the facility.
CAPTION: March for Life (This graphic was not available)