Pro-choice board member forced out

February 12, 1991|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

Del. Gerry L. Brewster has been pressured into resigning from the board of a fund-raising arm of St. Joseph Hospital after anti-abortionists complained to the Catholic institution about his public pro-choice stance.

In asking Brewster, D-Balto. Co., for his resignation from the Towson hospital's St. Joseph Foundation Board of Trustees, the hospital president, Sister Marie Cecilia, wrote in a letter dated Jan. 11, "The hospital distinguishes between 'holding' a pro-choice position and 'advocating' it. Your campaign categorized you as a public advocate.

"You are likely to be called upon to stand up in the forefront with the leaders of the pro-choice positions. Your position as a Foundation Board member would definitely be compromised and would prove an embarrassment to the hospital. It could accentuate a public perception that the hospital has a double standard in . . . fund-raising."

Brewster, 33, a freshman legislator, said he is planning to vote in favor of a pro-choice abortion bill wending its way through the legislature this year. The Senate passed the abortion bill today on a 29-18 vote and sent it to the House of Delegates.

The delegate, son of former U.S. Sen. Daniel Brewster, said he is "deeply troubled and saddened by this turn of events" and thinks the hospital's logic doesn't make sense.

The younger Brewster, asked to become a member of the hospital's Foundation Board last March, was notified of his reappointment to the volunteer board for a three-year term last Nov. 5. He never made a secret of his abortion views while campaigning for office, he said.

Brewster resigned by letter Saturday. It said: "I believe that the tTC great principle at stake, freedom of thought and speech, has been weakened by the hospital's stance. . . ."

Paul Mark Sandler, a lawyer and board member who helped recruit Brewster to the board, said, "The decision of the hospital . . . is unacceptable, ridiculous and unfair. I'm ashamed he was asked to resign."

The request for Brewster's resignation came in part as the result of a complaint relayed to Sister Marie Cecilia by Del. Martha S. Klima, R-Balto. Co.

Lori Vidil, a hospital spokeswoman, said Sister Marie Cecilia "is very much in favor of Gerry" and "was trying not to have it come to this."

She said the decision to ask for Brewster's resignation came from the hospital, although Sister Marie Cecilia did consult with Baltimore Roman Catholic Archbishop William H. Keeler and church theologians.

Klima, an anti-abortionist who is on the board of the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, said the complaint was from "a very prominent person on Seminary Avenue" who thought it wrong that Brewster mentioned his hospital service on campaign literature while also advocating a pro-choice stance on abortion.

"He can't play it both ways," Klima quoted the constituent as saying. She refused to identify the person.

Klima said she considered Brewster's pro-choice position "a major problem" in serving on the board of a Catholic hospital, "because it's so anti-Catholic," she said.

Klima conceded that GBMC performs abortions despite her opposition as a board member there. The St. Joseph Foundation board only raises funds for the hospital, and does not have a say in daily operations, hiring or firing.

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