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In Sarasota, both sides to mark Roe v. Wade

SARASOTA — Both sides of the abortion debate will commemorate the 37th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision with events today at Planned Parenthood Regional Headquarters.

Pro-choice advocates plan to mark the Jan. 22, 1973, ruling affirming women’s constitutional right to abortion with an 11 a.m. news conference about current threats to that right.

Pro-life advocates have chosen to honor the children who were never born because of the decision with a Prayer Walk for Life from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in front of the Planned Parenthood building, 736 Central Ave.

The walk is sponsored by St. Martha’s Catholic Church and the Diocese of Venice’s Respect Life Department. The Diocese of Venice includes Catholic churches in Manatee County.

St. Martha’s will host Masses at 8:30 a.m., noon and 5:30 p.m. today at the church, 200 N. Orange Ave. There will be round-trip shuttle service from the church to Planned Parenthood for those who would like to join the walk.

“The goal of these walks is to remind people that this decision took place 37 years ago, and babies are being killed, and we’re against that,” said Bob Reddy, the diocese’s assistant communications director. “We know it’s an uphill battle, but people are willing to wait it out and see that these laws are changed.”

During the news conference, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida President and CEO Barbara A. Zdravecky will address congressional health care reform plans and the threat they pose to women’s abortion rights.

Abortion has been a major point of contention between the House of Representatives and the Senate during health care reform talks. The House version of the bill restricts federal funding for abortions in the public insurance option and in private policies for women receiving federal subsidies. The Senate version would permit states to decide if women who have federally subsidized insurance must pay for abortions out of their own funds.

“Both the House and Senate versions have things that would take away the rights of women,” said Wendy Grassi, the director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood.

Grassi said the pro-choice advocates remain vigilant to make sure the Supreme Court’s decision continues to be upheld.

“I think the decision is always in jeopardy,” she said. “The way the Supreme Court is made up, it’s always one vote away from being overturned.”