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Valley Morning Star

October 8, 2000

'Culture of death' protested

By FERNANDO DEL VALLE

HARLINGEN --- Huddled around a looming image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a group of anti-abortion activists demonstrated Saturday outside an abortion clinic to pray for an end to what they called the nation's "culture of death."

In one of the largest demonstrations outside Reproductive Services, about 100 men, women and children prayed as part of the Roman Catholic Church's Respect for Life Pilgrimage that has taken the Virgin's image across the Valley since Sept. 30.

"We're on a mission of life so that people will convert and end the culture of death in this country," said Sister Nancy Boushey of the Benedictine Monastery of the Good Shepherd in Starr County.

On the grounds outside the abortion clinic, the Rev. Frank Pavone led the group in prayer 10 days after the federal government approved the use of RU-486, the so-called abortion pill.

"The pro-choice groups working to get this drug legalized are simplifying what it really is," said Pavone, a New York priest who runs popular TV and radio shows and serves as director of Priests for Life, a national organization of clergy.

"It's not something that prevents pregnancy. It starves the child ---- a child with a beating heart," Pavone said in an interview.

"We will continue to reach out to women. Some of them feel they can't get on with their lives with this baby, but they can. People are reaching out to help, financially and in any other way. We have a national base to give them help."

The Rev. Craig Carolan, pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Harlingen, said the drug could lead to more abortions.

"I think it will make abortion easier and more private, so I think it will endanger the lives of more unborn children." Carolan said.

"Anything that adds to the abortion industry is going to make people more callous." he said.

At Reproductive Services, a receptionist referred questions to the clinic's administrator, Charles G. Hart, who could not be reached for comment.

But Rosemarie Herrmann, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Cameron and Willacy counties, said the drug gives women an option to surgical abortion.

"It gives women an effective and private way to terminate their pregnancies," Herrmann said in a telephone interview.

"I think we have to respect the women who are making this decision. People don't decide to terminate a pregnancy lightly, just because there is a more private way to do it." she said

In the cool, cloudy morning, Ashley Rios, 12, chanted prayers with the crowd gathered outside the abortion clinic.

"I know it's wrong for young women to take the life of a child not born yet," the seventh-grader from Memorial Middle School said.

"I believe it's a real person because it has a heart. It's one of God's children. A child deserves to live," she said.

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