Bill Hicks spends his vacation time the same way every year. He travels with his wife and three young children to the National Right to Life Convention.
"We've been doing this for about seven or eight years," said Hicks, a member of the Cincinnati, Ohio, chapter of the Right to Life movement. "You get a good feel for the direction of the movement itself."
This year's national convention is being held at the Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency Hotel here, and the Hicks family is joining 1,500 to 2,000 participants from 50 states.
"It is the major educational event of the year for the pro-life movement -- three days with over 65 workshops featuring over 80 speakers," said Daniel Donehey, public relations director for the three-day convention, which opened yesterday.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mother Teresa, Archbishop of New York Cardinal John O'Connor and Dr. Bernard Nathanson, creator of the controversial antiabortion film "The Silent Scream," are among the convention speakers. Workshops cover such subjects as "saving lives through sidewalk counselling" and fund raising for Right to Life chapters.
Colleen Phillips of Hamler, Ohio, a state officer of the Ohio Right to Life organization, said she is here "to learn more about what other states are doing in the Right to Life movement and to see what materials are available for my local Right to Life chapter."
"I went to a workshop on the Holocaust, slavery and abortion this morning, and the parallels are so clear," said Carol Leary of Rochester, N.Y.
Some delegates also said that they perceive the Right to Life movement to be growing.
"We have so many new people that are joining at the grass-roots level now," said Brenda Fastabend, of Lynchburg, a past president of the Virginia Society for Human Life.
"I think the last couple months have been very encouraging," said the Rev. Joseph Naumann of St. Louis. Naumann attributed this upswing in part to President Reagan's reelection last November and to the impact of the film "The Silent Scream."
While the convention proceeded inside the hotel, abortion rights advocate William Baird held a press conference on the sidewalk outside the Hyatt and charged that such conventions offer instruction in how to attack abortion clinics.
Baird, who operates abortion and birth control clinics in New York and Massachusetts claimed that upsurges in violent acts aimed at abortion clinics usually follow such conventions.
Donehey said that his organization would not respond to any of Baird's comments because "he is not a legitimate representative" of abortion rights advocates.