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Pro-Choice Activists Sponsor Memorial

May 05, 1985|JANICE MALL

The ongoing debate over abortion, never quiescent, appears to be escalating in recent weeks with pro-life organizations encouraged by having a friend in the Oval Office and pro-choice groups gearing up for major projects.

Planned in stark contrast to the pro-life movement's focus on the rights of the unborn, the pro-choice activities are intended to keep the spotlight on the impact of abortion law on women and their families. And like the emotional approach in the pro-life film, "The Silent Scream," which shows ultrasound images of a fetus during an abortion and was recently distributed by the President to all members of Congress and the justices of the Supreme Court, the new public campaign planned by pro-choice forces is personal and dramatic.

The California Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL) is sponsoring a candlelight memorial service for all the women who died as a result of illegal operations before the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. The event will be at 7 p.m. May 13 at St. Augustine's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica.

"It's an attempt to get the focus off of fetuses," said Lauren Virshup, director of CARAL in Southern California. "We have a lot of emotional impact on our side, and we've been too cerebral," she said. The thinking is that people may relate more to information about women's lives than theoretical, judicial concepts, Virshup said.

"Testament to Choice: A Commemoration of Women's Lives" will feature testimonials by friends and family members of women who lost their lives because of illegal abortions. Also among the speakers will be three Christian pastors and Rabbi Allen Freehling, president of the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights.

"The purpose of the memorial is to remind the American public that the issue of choice is about the lives of people we love," Virshup said in the organization's announcement. "A woman who chooses to end a pregnancy should have the right to a medically safe, legal procedure. If abortion becomes illegal, many women will be forced to choose illegal and life-threatening alternatives. We must ensure that these women--our mothers, daughters, wives and friends--never again lose their lives in this tragic way."

The California Abortion Rights Action League is also affiliated with the National Abortion Rights Action League's "National Speakout Campaign" to solicit letters from people who take a pro-choice view and wish to write their personal stories about abortion. NARAL plans to deliver thousands of such letters to the White House. The Southern California division of CARAL is committed to gathering at least 1,000 letters to represent the region. Anyone who would like to write of their own experience or that of a friend or relative regarding illegal or legal abortion may address letters to President Reagan and send them to the CARAL office, 1337 Santa Monica Mall, Suite 316, Santa Monica 90401.

The Speakout drive will culminate in a two-day vigil beginning on the evening of May 20 in Washington, at which delegates from all 50 states, including some prominent women, will tell their personal stories.

A woman who is 40 or older at the time of divorce is much less likely than a younger woman to remarry and more likely to suffer financial hardships, according to a new study by Judith Wallerstein of UC Berkeley, a nationally recognized expert on divorce. Wallerstein is a senior lecturer in social welfare at Berkeley, executive director of the Center for the Family in Transition in Corte Madera, Calif., and principal investigator for the California Children of Divorce Project.

Her current findings, reported at the recent annual meeting of the American Orthopsychiatric Assn., included her most recent research results from interviews with 52 families among 60 divorced couples she has been following for a decade.

Remarriage is less frequent than is commonly believed, Wallerstein said. The U.S. Census estimates that women 40 to 75 have only a 28% chance of remarrying, but none of the wives in Wallerstein's study who were over 40 at the time they divorced had remarried after 10 years. Most of their husbands had remarried. So had two thirds of the women in her study who had divorced while in their 20s and 30s.

National figures indicate that 75% of divorced women remarry, but these figures are heavily weighted by the large numbers of very young divorced women who enter a second marriage, Wallerstein said.

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