- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 22, 2005

The nation’s largest school union, despite its consistently pro-choice stance, has agreed to open its headquarters near the White House as a hospitality center for members participating in tomorrow’s March for Life.

At the urging of state National Education Association (NEA) chiefs in Ohio and Pennsylvania who argued “fairness,” NEA President Reg Weaver decided last week to invite members participating in the pro-life march to use the headquarters at 16th and M streets NW as a hospitality center, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times.

Last April, the union joined the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) as co-sponsor of a pro-choice March for Women’s Lives. Members of the NEA Pro-Life Educators Caucus objected to the union’s decision to co-sponsor the demonstration, and objected to union affiliates in New Jersey and elsewhere that bused teachers to Washington for the march.

Last week, after continued complaints from members at local and state levels, Mr. Weaver announced that the headquarters would be open to union members participating in tomorrow’s March for Life, an event protesting the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that overturned state laws prohibiting abortion.

Gary Allen, president of the Ohio Education Association (OEA), urged Mr. Weaver to host pro-life union members who come to Washington as a matter of “fairness,” according to documents obtained by The Times.

Delegates to an OEA meeting Dec. 4 in Columbus, Ohio, had rejected a move by Judy Bruns, a language arts teacher and head of the union’s national pro-life caucus, to request NEA hospitality for March for Life participants.

Nonetheless, “the OEA leadership went to bat for us,” Mrs. Bruns said. “As a matter of fairness, since they opened up to pro-choice, I brought this up as a new business item. After it went down, some of us spoke to OEA leadership. They saw it as a fairness issue without a doubt.”

Mr. Allen did not return a telephone call requesting comment. But on Jan. 10, Mr. Weaver responded to Mrs. Bruns’ request about a hospitality center for pro-life demonstrators.

“Yes, the NEA can provide refreshments with this [pro-life] group as was done with the other [pro-choice] group,” Mr. Weaver told Mrs. Bruns in an e-mail Jan. 10. “It was brought to my attention at the last NEA board meeting and I responded that we would,” the NEA president wrote.

Mr. Weaver did not respond to a request for comment.

Gaye Barker, an NEA program coordinator, contacted union pro-life leaders Wednesday to inform them that the union’s headquarters would provide a buffet lunch to NEA members and their families participating in the March for Life, starting at 11:30 a.m., plus refreshments, shelter and use of headquarters facilities throughout the day.

“This is a historic moment for all pro-life members of the NEA,” said Sissy Jochmann, a teacher near Pittsburgh and head of the NEA Conservative Educators Caucus.

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