"Life Chain" links anti-abortionists in Baltimore-to-Annapolis protest


Larry Bourckel could have spent his Father's Day in an air-conditioned restaurant having lunch with his wife and four children.

Instead, the Parkville mailman and his family sweated in 100-degree heat on a Pratt Street sidewalk to be part of a chain of anti-abortion protesters that lined stretches of the Inner Harbor, Ritchie Highway and Rowe Boulevard in Annapolis.

"This is how I wanted to spend Father's Day," said Mr. Bourckel, a tall, bearded man who held a sign that read "Abortion Kills Children."

"I had other options."

But he wasn't interested in a traditional Father's Day.

"What we're doing is more important than what day it is," Mr. Bourckel said.

He and his wife, Vicki, had a two-month-old son die from birth defects last September. But theywouldn't have considered an abortion even if they had known about the baby's problems, they said.

"You can love a handicapped child just as well," Mrs. Bourckel said.

The Baltimore-Annapolis Life Chain was a silent protest of abortion by members of more than 100 churches in Central Maryland, said Bill Collins, a spokesman for theevent.

He said that about 3,500 people participated in forming the chain.

One of the targets of the protest was the state's new abortion bill, which was passed in February.

The law allows for abortion without restriction up to the time the fetus can survive outside the womb.

In later terms of pregnancy, the law allows for abortion only if the woman's health is in danger or if the fetus is severely deformed.

Anti-abortion activists are trying to bring the new law to a referendum, and protesters brought petitions with them to gather signatures.

Proponents of abortion rights and anti-abortion protesters found themselves on the opposite sides of the issue and the street as "Abortion Kills Children" signs were countered by others declaring, "Keep Your Laws off My Body" and "Keep Abortion Legal" at Jumpers Hole Road and Ritchie Highway in Pasadena.

The abortion rights group wanted to be there to let the public know that there is another side to the issue, said Michele Douglas, chairwoman of the Maryland State Clinic Defense Task Force.

She estimated that there were about 50 abortion rights advocates at the intersection, while chain organizers estimated that there were between 400 and 500 anti-abortion demonstrators on the other side of the street.

The two groups were amicable in their confrontation.

Dick Edwards, of Reisterstown, pointed to his 18-month-old son, Joseph, asleep in his stroller to explain his participation in the chain.

"This is why I'm here," he said. "It's for the rights of the unborn."

Mr. Edwards' children, Gabriele, 5, and Benjamin, 3, didn't really know why they were there.

But Mr. Bourckel, who brought his four children, ranging in age from 3 to 11, said they will understand one day.

"The older ones will remember that it was hot, but also that mom and dad thought it was important for them to come out," he said.

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