Linked to a cause

Abortion issue at center of annual event, with pill in background

By SUSANNA RAY

Herald Writer

EVERETT — About a dozen abortion opponents lined up for an hour Sunday on Everett Mall Way to form a "Life Chain." They said last week’s decision by the Food and Drug Administration to approve the sale of the French RU-486 pregnancy-ending pill was on their minds but not their reason for demonstrating.

"I was disappointed in the RU-486 decision, but I would have gone whether or not it had passed," said Gwyneth Ginther of Everett.

This was Ginther’s second time as part of the Life Chain, which has been an annual October event in cities across the country for 13 years. It was the fifth for Tracy Larson of Edmonds.

"This is not a protest, per se, but a stand for life," Larson said. "I don’t protest."

This year, participants formed chains in at least 860 cities and towns across the United States and Canada, said Royce Dunn, who heads the Yuba City, Calif.-based ministry called "Please Let Me Live" that organized the first Life Chain in 1987.

Dunn said he didn’t think the RU-486 decision had an impact on attendance.

He said his group "has been expecting the FDA to approve RU-486 for some time, especially under the Clinton administration," he said. "To that degree, it was a bit anticlimactic."

The pill, with the generic name mifepristone, has been on the market in Europe for 12 years, but President George Bush pointed to health concerns in blocking its importation here during his 1988-1992 term. Clinton immediately reversed that policy when he was inaugurated in 1993, and the FDA approved it on Thursday, after years of clinical trials and difficulty finding a manufacturer.

"I guess we have been grateful it hasn’t been approved before now," Dunn said.

Developed in France, RU-486 is used at the beginning of a pregnancy to basically induce a miscarriage. According to an article last week in The Washington Post, it likely will be more expensive and painful than a surgical abortion, but privacy is one of its major selling points.

RU-486 will be prescribed by doctors and available at Planned Parenthood clinics. A woman takes one pill, either at home or in the doctor’s office, and then must return two days later for another medication that causes the aborted embryo to be expelled from her body.

Ginther said women who take RU-486 will be welcome in local abortion support groups, such as the one run by her church, New Life Center of Everett.

"If they’re doing it on their own, at home, I can imagine it would be a very difficult experience," Ginther said. "So those people need some support and comfort in a very awful chapter of their lives."

Ginther and some of the other participants said they support the local Pregnancy Resource Center, and with their signs Sunday, hoped to sway local women against having abortions.

"I felt like it was important to stand up and be counted in public," Ginther said. "If you don’t stand up, then people think you agree with what’s going on."

She said it was a difficult stand to take on Sunday, however, as some passing motorists opened their windows to yell obscenities or make obscene gestures. Others beeped their horns in support.

The Life Chain is intended as a peaceful demonstration, not a rally or protest. Participants are asked not to block streets or sidewalks, but to stand quietly and hold signs saying "Abortion Kills Children" or "Adoption: Loving Option."

Pastors or counselors hold different signs — "Jesus forgives and heals" — to show that they are available to counsel women who have had or are considering abortions, said organizer Arlene Noyes of Mountlake Terrace.

Hundreds of local abortion opponents have participated in the past, but Noyes said the small turnout this year is, in part, because she got the information out late. She also said she thinks abortion supporters have intimidated newspapers into not publicizing the annual event.

The location was chosen years ago for its central location along a busy thoroughfare, Noyes said, adding that it had nothing to do with nearby businesses.

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