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YOUNGSTOWN Abortion protest sparks debate



Published: Tue, August 13, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform's presence in Youngstown drew no group demonstrations, but did rile a couple of residents.

By WILLIAM K. ALCORN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- "Who are they to say? They are not God," was Michelle D'Eramo's reaction to two trucks with billboard-size pictures of aborted fetuses pasted on their sides and rear.

The trucks, sponsored by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, a nonprofit educational foundation based in California, circled the downtown area with their photographic anti-abortion message for about two hours Monday, beginning around 11 a.m.

The billboard trucks were also scheduled to cruise in Mahoning Valley rush-hour traffic Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning and afternoon and to drive around Warren's downtown area for a couple of hours around noon today, said Mark Harrington, CBR's Midwest regional director.

CBR's presence in Youngstown drew no group demonstrations -- either for or against its message or method, but did rile a couple of residents and caught the attention of others.

D'Eramo and her sister, Denise Ulozas of Youngstown, were incensed.

D'Eramo walked into the street and shook her fist at the driver of one of the trucks.

Voicing their opinion

"That's very disgusting," she said of the pictures of fetuses taken in the first trimester of pregnancy. "Whoever did that should be incarcerated," she said.

"That should not be permitted. I really feel the police should step in. Any extreme is no good," said Ulozas, who also walked into the street to confront the trucks' drivers.

Others, while not particularly supportive, were less critical of CBR's graphic tactics.

"I think they could use more effective means. An approach like that may be counterproductive. But it does get your attention," Ed Knapp of Youngstown said.

Richard Carter said the images on the truck did not bother him.

"I don't believe in abortion myself, but if a person does it, that's their business. The truck's message is good ... not too crude. Some people have too many abortions," Carter said.

Lori Shay of Johnston Township in Trumbull County said that she is anti-abortion and that the truck billboards "might make someone think." However, Shay said she didn't like it. "It just makes you feel awful. You don't know whose baby that is."

Variety of views

Chris Chepke of Poland said although she wouldn't have an abortion, she believes women should have a choice.

She said the truck billboards are "a little graphic. Most of us as adults probably have an idea what a fetus looks like."

"I think a fetus is a human life and deserves a chance. There are other options, such as adoption or other family members' raising the baby," said Donna Smith of Struthers. Harrington said the Youngstown-Warren area was chosen for demonstration because it is a population center, there is an abortion clinic here, and there is a university.

"Young people need to see this," he said.

He said that CBR was not invited here by any local groups but that there are individual local supporters who helped with logistics. Harrington, a paid employee of CBR, said the organization's ultimate goal is to make abortion illegal.

"We see ourselves as social reformers. Public opinion needs to change ... so public policy will be changed," he said.

Another approach

Karen Hackenberry, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Mahoning Valley, believes CBR's "intimidation and in-your-face tactics" don't stop abortion. Family planning and sex education stop abortions because they prevent unintended pregnancies, and that's what Planned Parenthood does every day, she said.

Harrington, on the other hand, believes the tactics are effective, citing "hundreds" of messages from women contemplating abortion who say they chose not to because of the pictures.

Hackenberry said the decision on whether to have a child, and when, is deeply personal and the "most important decision" women make in life. Women struggling to make this private decision deserve more than intimidation by "out-of-town anti-choice extremists," she said.

Planned Parenthood doesn't provide abortions, but it does trust women as moral agents to make the decision for themselves, she said.

alcorn@vindy.com




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