- Associated Press - Saturday, January 18, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The president of the national group Feminists for Life called Saturday for Vermont abortion opponents to “free women from abortion.”

Serrin Foster spoke before about 300 people attending a Statehouse rally against legalized abortions, arguing that society often coerces pregnant women into having abortions by not doing enough to support having the child.

She urged that people opposed to abortion support better housing, child care and other services, especially college-age and other young women who become pregnant.

She said she met with a group of students Friday at the University of Vermont, where she learned “they do have many of these resources, but nobody seems to know about them.”

Foster argued that a core tenet of feminism is to raise a voice in opposition anytime people seek to “dominate, control or destroy one another,” and that abortion should be considered an instance of such destruction.

While Foster’s message was warmly received by the people who filled the House chamber on Saturday, it is unlikely to change the political landscape in Vermont anytime soon, said Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, who attended the event with her 87-year-old mother Christiane Donahue.

“We’re obviously not going to change any laws in Vermont in the near future,” the younger Donahue said. She said it’s important that, despite strong support for abortion rights in the Democrat-dominated Legislature and by Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, the other side in the debate be given a voice.

The elder Donahue said, “I reel that everyone has a right to live. We don’t have a right to put anybody to death.”

At the other end of the age spectrum, the gathering was treated to some accomplished fiddle playing by 14-year-old Luke Beseglio of Waterbury Center, son of Joanna Turner Beseglio, the Vermont Right to Life Committee official who led the event. Also, 16-year-old Jennie Foster of Middlebury quoted from the Bible, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution in her argument against legal abortion.

The event in the House chamber came after participants marched from Montpelier City Hall and stopped on the Statehouse steps to ring a bell 56 times - once for each million abortions organizers said had occurred in the United States since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure nationwide in 1973.

Rep. Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, who in addition to her legislative duties serves as director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said in an interview later that the situation for women in Vermont is nowhere near as bleak as Serrin Foster indicated.

She said Planned Parenthood, the Lund Foundation and Vermont Works for Women are among several groups that provide support for women in pregnancy and motherhood.

“In Vermont, we have great supports for all women who find themselves pregnant,” Krowinski said.

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