SARASOTA — The 37th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling on abortion brought activists on both sides of the issue to the streets Friday.
Nearly 350 people, some with pro-choice signs, others with rosary beads, walked around the Planned Parenthood Regional Headquarters, 736 Central Ave.
Supporters of the Catholic Diocese of Venice’s Respect Life Department arrived at about 8 a.m. for a Prayer Walk for Life rally.
Crawford Bennett Jr., 21 and a student at New College of Florida in Sarasota, said he attended the event to support “the right for others to have life — from conception to death.
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“We’re not here to judge,” said Bennett, a member of the campus organization, Catholic Solidarity. “We have to pray and love.”
For Nancy Turner, of Sarasota, supporting Planned Parenthood also is a matter of life.
“In the ’60s (before Roe v. Wade), young girls used to take the train to New York for abortions,” Turner said. “Others would give themselves abortions and a lot of women died.”
She added, “Family planning is a personal issue and not to be interfered with.”
Marina Kopko, assistant director for the Respect Life Department, said there were people of all faiths at Friday’s Prayer Walk.
“We’re praying for the women having abortions,” Kopko said, “because we know abortions harm women emotionally, spiritually and psychologically.”
She said they believe in the power of prayer and that God has the final word.
“We’re praying for the end of abortion and our prayers will be heard,” Kopko said.
Most of those walking the large block around the new Planned Parenthood building were deep in quiet prayer or talking to each other in soft tones.
But about 15 New College students were dressed in loud, colorful costumes and singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” as they marched single file, weaving in and out past the others.
“We wanted to counter their spectacle with a better spectacle,” said Christina Lawrence, a 21-year-old student. “We’re being playful and making it more exciting.”
Fellow student Lizzie Tracy, 20, said they were at the rally to show their support for the pro-choice cause.
Barbara A. Zdravecky, president and CEO of Southwest and Central Florida Planned Parenthood, held a news conference in the courtyard of the building to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, which affirmed a women’s right to have an abortion.
Zdravecky spoke on “the importance of protecting a women’s access to abortion.
“Anti-choice legislators are using the ongoing health care reform debate as an opportunity to severely restrict women’s access to abortion.”
She referred to the U.S. House amendment to the national health care bill pushed through by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., that bans abortion coverage in private health insurance and bars the use of federal dollars for abortions.