Town refuses to adopt anti-abortion proclamation

Commissioners say measure lacks legality

March 22, 2000|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN STAFF

MARDELA SPRINGS -- The town commission in this tiny Wicomico County community refused last night to go along with an anti-abortion proclamation offered by one of its members, saying the measure has no legal weight and can do nothing but bring unwanted publicity.

The decision came with no discussion as the proposal died for lack of a second, apparently matching the sentiments of many in the town of 362, who questioned why Commissioner Anthony Severn had pushed the issue into the spotlight.

"I just don't think this is a town issue," said Commissioner Jeanne Cohee after the 25-minute meeting, which drew about 15 residents and several reporters despite a heavy downpour. "This is an individual thing. It's not something we should be dealing with as a town."

Severn, 52, a Vietnam veteran who has lived in Mardela Springs for almost 20 years, said he introduced the proclamation stating that life begins at the moment of conception and not at birth because of his personal convictions.

Even though the town has no legal authority to regulate abortions, Severn said, the proposal was worthwhile because it sparked debate.

After the meeting, which was dominated by routine town business such as problems with abandoned cars and removing Christmas lights, Severn said he was surprised not to get a second for his proclamation, a move that would have allowed an open debate in the one-room town hall.

"I guess there was some last-minute politicking that went on," he said. "But regardless of what has happened here tonight, the abortion issue is going to be with us. The best we could hope would be to have legal abortion because we're a free country, but few are performed because we are a moral country."

Severn, who owns a shipyard in Salisbury, said his unofficial poll, gathered from talking with his neighbors during the past month since he announced he would introduce the proclamation, found opinion split three ways: favorable, unfavorable and ambivalent.

He said he is not sure whether he will bring the matter before the town commission again.

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