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The Forum

August 15, 1994

Abortion Protest Peaceful

1,000 join march to Fargo clinic, hold service

By Matthew Von Pinnon

Nearly 1,000 pro-life supporters marched peacefully through downtown Fargo Sunday en route to a prayer demonstration in front of North Dakota's only abortion clinic.

The demonstration, sponsored by the Fargo Catholic Diocese, went on despite criticism by Jane Bovard, the clinic's administrator, that it would be "incredibly irresponsible" in light of the recent killings at a Pensacola, Fla., abortion clinic.

An abortion doctor and his escort were shot to death July 29 in Pensacola, the second such shooting there involving an abortion doctor in the past two years.

But Bishop James S. Sullivan, who organized the Fargo "Walk with Christ for Life," said it had been planned for months and was not intended to inflame the recent situation surrounding abortion clinics.

"That such things as hatred and violence and hurting and killing, and all of these things, will be eradicated from our society, that is our prayer and the focus of this march," Sullivan told reporters before Sunday's procession began.

Asked whether he was concerned about the heightened possibility of violence occurring as a result of the march, Sullivan said "I look at all my friends out here and I don't think that any of us are very violent. However, I will say that there is going to be violence out there, and that violence is within the slaughterhouse."

The Fargo Women's Health Organization, the only clinic in North Dakota where abortions are performed, has been burned and vandalized in the past.

Sullivan said that those two acts of violence against the clinic were random and caused by "unbalanced people" not associated with their organization. He added "As for worrying about the problems out there, nothing could be more violent than what's out there now."

Asked, why the prayer demonstration must be staged in front of the clinic and not elsewhere, Sullivan said, "I think we need it for ourselves more than anything else, just to remind us of this place. Whenever an unborn child is being slaughtered, we will remember.

"We want to elevate the awareness of all the people to the evil that's taking place, what's really happening there. We want change. We're asking God to give us a miracle, if it takes that."

Fr. Frank Pavone, who, as the national director of Priests for Life, flew in to Fargo from New York for Sunday's march, also spoke.

"I read the news reports that have been going around here recently and the comments by the administrator of this abortion mill that it was irresponsible for us to come out," he said.

"My response to that is, No. 1, it is irresponsible to kill children; and No. 2, knowing that children are being killed, it would be irresponsible for us not to come out."

Bovard was unavailable for comment Sunday night. Also, a call to clinic attorney William Kirschner was not returned Sunday.

The march began outside St. Mary's Cathedral shortly after 1 p.m. and continued for 16 blocks to the Fargo Women's Health Organization. Marchers, who sang as they walked, stopped for short periods along the way to pray as church bells tolled in the distance.

Priests interspersed throughout the procession held walkie-talkies high above their heads while leading marchers in prayer.

LeRoy Sly from Dilworth positioned himself along the route just to watch. "I just came to see if I knew anyone, but I don't," he said. "I'm neutral in the whole abortion debate. I don't want any part of either side."

Others along the route were more partisan.

Pat Schiele of Fargo, a pro-life supporter, rode his bike along the procession instead of walking.

Dominic Reinsenhauser and Brent Muskravn, two other bicyclists from Fargo, shook their heads as marchers walked by.

"We came to peacefully observe what's going on," Muskravn said as Reinsenhauser added, "Obviously people know their stance on this, so why are they out marching around?"

Reinsenhauser said he and Muskravn planned to follow the march and demonstrate their pro-choice views in front of the clinic.

"I have a sign that says 'Our bodies, our choice,' that I'm going to hold up when I get there," Reinsenhauser said. "We kind of feel they have the stance, 'Our bodies, their choice.' This country was supposedly founded on religious freedom, and they're kind of persecuting everyone, just pushing their beliefs on everyone."

Fargo Police Officer Glen Hanson, one of two assigned to special detail at the clinic, estimated the crowd at between 950 to 1,000. Fourteen Emergency Vehicle Assistance Communications personnel assisted Fargo Police in traffic control.

Two federal marshals, stationed at the clinic since the day after the Florida shootings, sat in their cars behind the building.

Sullivan led prayers in front of the clinic for about 20 minutes before the crowd dispersed and was taken back to the cathedral in a number of buses.

Steve Reberg of Fargo, who participated in Sunday's march, said, "My conviction is that life is sacred. I feel that what they're doing at the abortion clinic is wrong." He added, "It's also kind of nice to be around people with like views."

Asked whether he thought there was a potential for violence at Sunday's march in light of the Pensacola shootings, Reberg said "I'm concerned about the shootings in Pensacola. What happened there was wrong. But as far as what's going on here and the fears that the abortionists have, they're unfounded."

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