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Protest Fare for Papal Visit: AIDS, Feminism, Abortion and Waldheim

September 16, 1987|JUDY PASTERNAK | Times Staff Writer

The Pope's arrival set off scattered demonstrations Tuesday on a variety of issues.

AIDS education volunteers distributed hundreds of condoms at two Catholic high schools west of downtown, amusing students and dismaying teachers. Feminists nailed a women's bill of rights to Catholic church doors in West Covina. Children of Holocaust survivors criticized the Pope in Universal City for his June meeting with Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, who is accused of helping the Nazis deport Jews from Greece.

Anti-Abortion Protest

In support of the Pope's strong stand against abortion, about 35 anti-abortion activists carried picket signs, clutched banners and sang hymns outside a clinic near USC. But they failed in their stated goal of preventing abortions from being performed.

The day's major protest was expected to be a rally and candlelight vigil scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. outside City Hall. Organizers, representing a coalition of gays, women's rights advocates and atheists, predicted that their Greet the Pope Committee would attract about 2,000 critics of the Pope.

Nearly three hours before the Pope's Shepherd 1 landed in Los Angeles, volunteers stood by Loyola High School, welcoming students to early classes with a leaflet about acquired immune deficiency syndrome, a packaged condom taped to each brochure. The distributors said they are concerned about church statements that advocating use of condoms would encourage promiscuity and homosexuality.

Most students reacted playfully. One peered at the condom label and pronounced it "a good brand." Another filled his sample with air and was soon bouncing a balloon across the lawn. "Having premarital sex is a mortal sin," said John Nally, a 17-year-old senior. "Use of a condom is just smart."

Faculty members were not so easygoing. One priest lectured the volunteers and hurried away; another shooed students into class. "I think it's an extraordinarily tacky thing to do," said Father Gordon Bennett, the principal.

At nearby all-girls' Bishop Conaty Memorial High School, nuns escorted students past the condom distributors, though some students asked for samples.

Abortion Clinic Escorts

Escorts with different motives were stationed at the HER Medical Clinic, target of the We Will Stand Up campaign, which has mailed letters to abortion centers in the cities along the Pope's route asking a halt to abortions during the religious leader's stay.

The clinic escorts were pro-choice volunteers who ushered patients past about 35 activists holding signs with slogans like "Dead Child Inside" and "No Abortions Here Today."

Clinic nurse practitioner Valerie Blackler said six abortions had been performed by early afternoon.

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