Monday, October 4, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Abortion Issue Brings Out Activists On All Sides

Thousands stood in the sunshine, bearing signs; a few dozen sat inside a breezy classroom, taking notes.

Seattle-area residents yesterday squared off on opposite sides of the abortion question, using strategies as divergent as their opinions on the issue.

In Ballard, an estimated 14,000 church members and other anti-abortion activists stretched for blocks along 15th Avenue Northwest, hoisting signs and inviting honks of approval.

In downtown Seattle, about 100 women "generals" attended a daylong session giving legal and medical information and outlining expected challenges to abortion rights.

But where the two sides met, there was some friction.

The abortion opponents said most motorists honked their approval or were silent. But every so often, drivers would flip a thumb down or a middle finger up, said Marianne Becker, who wore a T-shirt reading "Life begins at conception" and adorned with fetal footprints.

And a cluster of youths who endorsed abortion rights, in the midst of a sea of opposing signs, said they were met by hostility.

About 300 churches participated in the third annual "Life Chain" event, which this year shifted its venue from Bellevue to Ballard in the hopes of attracting a larger audience. Organizers said similar events were held in 13 other Washington cities and 800 communities nationwide.

Rebecca Brunelle, seated on a curb alongside two adopted brothers and a sister, held a hand-painted sign that read, "Adopted kids 4 life."

"If we were never born, we could never be adopted," said Brunelle, 16, a junior at Holy Names Academy. "I believe everyone should have a right to live."

For two years, Dick Rothlisberger has participated in the Life Chain because of what he called biblical inspiration. God's message, said Rothlisberger, 47, is "we're not to kill the innocent . . . there's nothing more innocent than an unborn child." He said the proverbs command him and other members of Valley View Christian Church in Kent to speak for those without a voice.

Sitting inside a Denny's restaurant near the center of the event, Cully Stimson and friends felt compelled to give voice to the other side.

"Doctor killers! Hypocrite," read a sign the Franklin High senior held.

"U.S. out of my uterus," read another held by Vanessa Foley-Delong, 13, a Whitman eighth-grader.

"We're getting ridiculed," admitted Stimson, 16, ticking off the number of obscene gestures and boos directed at him. "But we have our views."

The National Abortion Rights Action League picked yesterday for its information sessions to coincide with the anniversary of the death of a Texas woman, Rosaura Jimenez, who died after a botched abortion. That 1977 incident was the first documented abortion-related death after cuts in federal funding for abortions for poor women.

As the day got sunnier, the number of women gathered inside the downtown YWCA dwindled. Roughly 100 learned how to better communicate the abortion-rights message, said Marcy Bloom, a Washington board member of the league.

The numbers were tiny compared with the Life Chain crowd. But another Washington board member of the abortion-rights league, Belle Taylor-McGhee, said the group was not trying to compete with a group that seeks "wide shot" TV coverage.

"I think what they've done is to be savvy and capture a picture by standing outside and holding hands," Taylor-McGhee said.

The abortion-rights league's training is "just as effective," she said. "These are the generals, and they're going to go out and round up the troops."

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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