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Protesters square off over O.C. hospital's abortion ban

June 20, 2013|By Jill Cowan and Lauren Williams

Wearing purple and carrying picket signs, hundreds of abortion rights advocates demonstrated Thursday night outside Hoag Hospital Newport Beach to protest a recent decision to eliminate elective abortions at the facility.

They were met by a robust crowd of counter-demonstrators, many of whom made clear they were on board with the hospital’s decision to stop providing the service after it affiliated with a Catholic healthcare system.

Signs proclaiming “Our bodies, ourselves” mixed in with placards thanking Hoag for saving “babies.” Alternating chants of “Shame on Hoag!” and “Thank you, Hoag!” echoed along Hospital Road.

“We will never know how many women were damaged by this decision,” said Patricia Bellasalma, the California president of NOW, who came from Sacramento and, like many of the protesters, dressed in purple, a color associated with the women’s rights movement.

Kristina Garza, 27, of Rancho Cucamonga, stood by Hoag, saying, “We are appreciative of their desire to save lives.”

In a statement Thursday, Hoag spokeswoman Nina Robinson said the decision to stop providing elective abortions was made after an extensive review of all hospital services, which found that fewer than 100 of the procedures were performed in a year, out of an estimated 20,000 or more countywide.

“We respect the people and points of view in our community, and it is unfortunate that a decision made with the community’s best interest in mind has been misrepresented as part of a larger political agenda,” Robinson said in the statement. “It simply is not.”

Though there was some shouting, arguing and honking by passersby, the protest remained free of physical conflict. Police presence was minimal.

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jill.cowan@latimes.com

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @jillcowan

Twitter: @laurenwilliams30

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