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Pro-Choice, Anti-Abortion Forces Clash Over Court Ruling

July 4, 1989

Undated (AP) _ The Supreme Court ruling on abortion sparked angry confrontations between pro-choice and anti-abortion forces across the country and one rights activist predicted the issue would become ″our Vietnam of the 1990s.″

Some opponents of Monday’s decision burned American flags in protest, a right confirmed by the high court in a ruling last week.

An angry, after-work crowd swelled a pro-choice rally of more than 2,000 outside San Francisco’s Federal Building. After a candlelight vigil, about 200 protesters broke off from the larger group and marched down Van Ness Avenue to the Mission District, knocking over garbage cans and newspapers stands.

Outside the historic Mission Dolores they were surrounded by about 50 riot police. One arrest was reported.

Lindsay Comy of San Francisco’s Women’s Choice Clinic offered to teach women to perform safe abortions if the operation is outlawed in California.

″We will not allow technology to be denied us,″ she said.

In St. Louis, Judith Widdecombe, founder of the clinic involved in the 5-4 court decision, said the ruling would not be tolerated by women.

″It will become our Vietnam of the 1990s,″ she said.

Flags were burned at protests in Chicago and other cities.

″I’m doing this because I want to show how angry I am,″ said Ela Thier, as she held a match above a lighter fluid-soaked flag in Rochester, N.Y. ″I believe that the Supreme Court has violated my basic human rights.″

″It is amazing to me that we can burn the flag but yet we don’t have control over our bodies,″ said Elyce Helford, who took part in a flag-burning at a rally of 300 pro-choice advocates in Iowa City, Iowa.

Monday’s ruling upheld key provisions of the Missouri law that prohibits public hospitals from performing abortions and bans the use of tax dollars for counseling or encouraging women about abortion. It also requires doctors to test for the viability of a fetus after 20 weeks.

Attorney Sarah Weddington, who represented Jane Roe in the 1973 decision that legalized abortions, saw the ruling as a sign that Roe vs. Wade would be overturned.

″I’ve invested 20 years of my life in this and now have been handed a major defeat,″ she said.

About 40 anti-abortion demonstrators prayed and picketed outside a women’s clinic in Philadelphia as they claimed victory in the Supreme Court ruling. A lone abortion-rights advocate, Kathryn Grumman, faced the protesters with an American flag, a coat hanger and a cross on a neckchain.

The Northeast Women’s Center, which performs abortions and other women’s health services, has been a frequent target of protests, including one Saturday that resulted in 103 arrests.There were no arrests Monday.

Police arrested 25 pro-choice demonstrators for blocking traffic at a rally by about 200 people outside the federal courthouse in New York City, where about 100,000 abortions are performed each year.

Many protesters wore red clothing or tied red crepe paper around one arm. Some carried coat hangers.

In Atlanta, pro-choice demonstrators heckled Michael Hirsh, local director of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, as he held a news conference in front of the Feminist Womens Health Center in Atlanta.

Hirsh praised the decision and predicted that more churches in Atlanta would join the anti-abortion movement, even surpassing church involvement in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

About 50 pro-choice advocates demonstrated at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, and pro-choice organizations planned a rally today at the Federal Building in Utah.