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Around 3:15 p.m. yesterday, the digital thermometer smack in the blaze of the sun at Key Federal Savings Bank in Pasadena read 108 degrees.

Some of those who had been lining Ritchie Highway for more thanan hour said it had to be hotter than that, even though the actual temperature reached a mere 100.

Whatever, it certainly wasn't an ideal day for a protest along a crowded highway.

But hundreds turned out for a 2 p.m. "life chain," a silent protest against abortion, and stayed until it ended 90 minutes later.

The protest, organized by Baltimore and Anne Arundel County churches, was to run from Baltimore's Inner Harbor to the StateHouse in Annapolis.

In Pasadena, the abortion opponents stood eight feet apart, holding signs reading "Abortion Kills Children" or "Jesus Heals and Forgives" as an endless stream of cars and trucks sped past.

On the other side of the highway, just south of Route 100, about 35 counter-demonstrators staged a protest of their own.

Some urged motorists to "honk for choice," as many did. Others held signs that read "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries," "Child abuse kills, not abortion" and "Pro-child, pro-family, pro-choice."

Just before lining the highway, the abortion opponents opened with a prayer, saying, "We ask that you use this life chain to soften the hearts of thosewho perform abortions or act as apologists for abortion. May they turn away from their evil deeds and gain salvation."

Looking across the highway at the abortion-rights protesters, Susan Bryan, a 36-year-old Pasadena woman who came out with husband and two children to join the life chain, said, "I believe the people across the highway are blinded.

"They don't know any better. They think what they are doing is right. If we could change just one mind today and save just onelife, it would certainly be worthwhile."

That those who came to form the life chain overlooked the heat to try to change peoples' minds demonstrates their commitment, said Jack Cox, pastor at Severn Covenant Church.

"It's very obvious that we mean business or we wouldn't be out here on Father's Day in this heat," Cox said. "We will continue to do this as long as we have to (in order) to end abortion forever."

But abortion-rights activists across the street charged thatthe life chain participants mixed religion and politics and ultimately want a theocracy.

Standing near Ritchie and Jumpers Hole, Kate Fayle balanced a "Keep Abortion Legal" sign on her straw hat. The Deale woman said she's all for motherhood and children: She had six kids, adopted seven more and now has 10 grandchildren.

And she's a Catholic. But, she said, "To me, this is strictly a religion issue. The Catholic church has the right to minister to Catholics, but the church does not have the right to tell any other group right from wrong orto take the freedom of choice from everybody."

Others said abortion foes oversimplify matters and ignore the cycle of social ills brought on by unwanted pregnancies.

"Where the hell are they in 10 years when these unwanted kids are starving? And where the hell are theyin 30 years when they're in the electric chair?" said Tara Unger, anArnold 19-year-old.

Both sides said they will watch closely the new abortion bill passed in February by the state legislature. The measure allows abortion without restrictions until the point where the fetus might be able to live outside the womb. Later in pregnancy, abortion is allowed only to save the woman's health or if the fetus is grossly deformed.

Anti-abortion groups are pushing to bring the measure to referendum next year.

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