Anti-abortion forces leaflet neighborhoods Photograph of fetus raises objections

June 28, 1992|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Staff Writer

Paul and Beth Szczybor spent yesterday morning wheeling their toddlers along tree-lined Catonsville streets and hanging a color photograph of a fetus on every door they passed.

The picture is captioned: "22-week-old unborn child killed by a prostaglandin abortion. VOTE AGAINST Question 6/The New Abortion Bill In November."

Eleven-month-old James, clutching an Arrowroot biscuit, rode contentedly in his stroller. But Catherine, 2 1/2 , wanted to help. Holding her mother's hand, she made her way up to a few doors to loop the anti-abortion flier over the knob.

"We felt this was really important," said Beth Szczybor, who has never before been involved in a political campaign. "This hit us."

In November, Marylanders will go to the polls to vote on a new abortion law that would keep most abortions in the state legal no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court decides. The Szczybors are among the Marylanders who want that law defeated.

So yesterday morning they joined other volunteers recruited by the Bowie-based Committee Against Radical Abortion Laws (CARAL) to begin campaigning against the measure in neighborhoods around the state.

Not surprisingly, abortion-rights groups are offended by the leaflets. "Outrageous," said a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Maryland. "Extremist," said a spokeswoman for Maryland for Choice.

But some anti-abortion groups also disapprove of the literature, evidencing a split in the political strategies that opponents of the new abortion law will use in the campaign to defeat it.

"The whole cast of the door-hanger is inflammatory," said Frederica Mathewes-Green, of the Vote kNOw Coalition, which opposes the law. "It's extreme, and I'm not sure it's helpful. We're not behind this. People are welcome to approach this [campaign] however they want. We're going to concentrate on the law."

At Maryland Right to Life, Executive Director Roger Stenson said, "I believe in getting out the more positive literature. Pictures of healthy live babies is the way we would go. This is shock value. These war pictures, as we call them, don't have much value unless you also educate people."

Mr. Stenson said there is a danger the photographs themselves, rather than the issue of abortion, will become the focus of the debate. He recalls a demonstrator carrying photographs of fetuses in front of a Planned Parenthood office. "The people walking by were saying, 'Why are the pro-lifers showing those things?' instead of, 'Why is Planned Parenthood doing abortions?' "

CARAL has printed 100,000 fliers.

Kip Gannett, the CARAL chairman, said volunteers will spend the summer distributing the literature.

"Our hope is that each home in Maryland will be confronted with the door-hanger and its picture of a precious unborn child before the vote on the abortion bill in November," Mr. Gannett wrote to volunteers.

At Planned Parenthood of Maryland, spokeswoman Linda Geeson said the leaflets are "about what we'd expect from people who are desperate to impose their own religious beliefs on the public."

She added that the photo campaign may backfire.

A few callers already have said the literature provoked them to offer donations to Planned Parenthood, Ms. Geeson said.

Maura Keefe, spokeswoman for Maryland for Choice, said, "CARAL is insulting the intelligence of Maryland voters. This is exactly what we expect from these extremist groups. We saw them in Buffalo. We saw them in Wichita. And now they're here in Maryland. And we think Maryland voters deserve better than this."

But Mark Dubyoski, who coordinated yesterday's CARAL volunteer efforts in Catonsville, said he sees no problem with the literature.

"If anything is too graphic and offensive and it makes us uncomfortable to look at, we shouldn't be tolerating it," Mr. Dubyoski said. "It's like the Holocaust. They keep showing pictures so we don't forget and it doesn't happen again."

Yesterday, the volunteers were directed simply to leave the leaflets on doors, not to ring bells or engage neighbors in conversation.

Mr. Dubyoski said he did not expect any negative comments on the photographs. "If people are offended, maybe they should examine why they feel that way," he said.

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