Much like her famous uncle before her, Alveda King is on a crusade for civil rights.
For her, those rights apply to unborn children as well.
Standing outside the gates of Planned Parenthood’s new Eugene-Springfield Health Center in Glenwood, King — the niece of Martin Luther King Jr. — led a crowd of about 75 people in prayer and song early Monday afternoon. She and others spoke of love, forgiveness, repentance and the right to life for all, including those not born.
King, 62, is no stranger to abortion: She has had two herself. The first, she has said in personal testimonies, was performed by a doctor who did so without her consent, by failing to reveal the nature of the procedure until after the fact. She has said she had the second performed because of pressure from the baby’s father.
Now, 40 years after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed women’s reproductive right to abortion in Roe vs. Wade, King tours the country, praying at abortion clinics and other venues and telling her story.
On Monday, she quickly left the prayer vigil — organized by the Marist for Life student group at Marist Catholic High School — to prepare for a lecture that she was slated to give Monday night at the University of Oregon, sponsored by the UO group Students for Life.
Ironically, both sides in the abortion debate claim Martin Luther King Jr. as their own. The civil rights leader in 1966 received an award named after Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, and in his acceptance speech he expressed the need for family planning.
However, many anti-abortion activists contend that, at that time, Planned Parenthood wasn’t performing abortions and that the civil rights leader was only endorsing birth control.
At Monday’s vigil, Alveda King and others recited the Lord’s Prayer and the “Easter Prayer of Life,” and sang “How Great Thou Art” and other Christian hymns.
Inside the Planned Parenthood building, agency CEO and president Cynthia Pappas said the people outside staged a “peaceful protest.” Police were called to help clear sidewalks for pedestrian and protester safety, but otherwise the group didn’t create any problems, Pappas said.
Pappas said it’s important to remind people that Planned Parenthood does more than offer abortion services, including providing various contraceptives.
“We do more than any other organization to prevent the need for abortion,” Pappas said.
Outside the center, Eugene resident Lynda Teutsch was among the prayer group leaders. As director for a 40 Days for Life group — a national campaign where anti-abortion advocates twice a year gather in front of Planned Parenthood offices and other abortion providers — she’s used to praying about the issue. She said in a brief interview Monday that she, too, once had an abortion and knows firsthand the regret and guilt that a would-be mother can experience.
Years ago, Teutsch said she was moved to look at pictures of aborted fetuses and was unnerved by the similarity of features shared by her then-1-year-old child.
“That freedom I was promised (with an abortion), I didn’t receive,” she said. “I took apart the lie. It wasn’t a blob of tissue, and my life wasn’t normal or fine afterward.”
In her search “to find healing and recovery from the sadness,” she found Alveda King’s anti-abortion group, Silent No More. She called King “one of the most famous and well-known leaders” in the anti-abortion community.
Linda Baker of Sweet Home said she is sympathetic to women who do not want to see their pregnancies through, but believes there are other options.
“Here’s my example,” she said, looking at the 4-year-old adopted daughter she was holding on her hip. “She’s a joy and a delight, and people say she shouldn’t be alive?”
Waving at cars and greeting pedestrians with a smile, Teutsch said the group’s mission is not to condemn but to offer pregnant women more choices.
“If you’re friendly and nice, (pregnant women considering abortion) might be willing to listen and even change their minds,” she said.
“If you’re friendly and nice, (pregnant women considering abortions) might be willing to listen and even change their minds.” Lynda Teutsch, Eugene resident