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Abortion supporters, foes rally at Vatican Embassy

Demonstrations held day before rally for womens' rights on Mall



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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Demonstrators on different sides of the abortion debate protested outside the Vatican Embassy in Washington on Saturday in advance of a large womens' rights rally Sunday.

About 150 members of Catholics for a Free Choice protested peacefully with about 50 members of a group that opposes legal abortion, the American Life League's Crusade for the Defense of Our Catholic Church.

Separated by police, both groups held signs and chanted outside the embassy, across the street from Vice President Dick Cheney's official residence.

A similar face-off occurred outside three Washington-area clinics that perform abortions.

Protesters tried to prevent pregnant women from entering the clinics while escorts from the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force helped the women through the crowd.

Many protesters held signs depicting mutilated fetuses, and buses with large photographs of bloody fetuses circled the block. The drivers chanted "Stop the murder!" and "Another dead baby!" on megaphones.

One man was arrested for carrying a dead fetus in a jar. Police charged Jeff White with keeping and exhibiting a dead body or part, a felony offense.

Randall Terry, founder of Operation Witness, which opposes legal abortion, addressed the crowd on a megaphone.

"Please don't despair, go home and have a renewed vow to go to the abortion clinics in your area and help these women to choose life," he said.

Outside the Vatican City Embassy, Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for Free Choice, said: "Between the Bush administration and the Vatican, we're dealing with an unholy alliance of fundamentalists who are trying to erode all of women's rights.

"It's not just about abortion. It's not just about family planning. It's about trying to put women back into the kitchens and out of the state houses, and we can't tolerate that."

Members of the American Life League's Crusade for the Defense of Our Catholic Church group carried banners reading: "You can't be Catholic and pro-choice" and "Father forgive them, they know not what they do."

Participant Jack Ames said the members of Catholics for a Free Choice "are not really Catholics."

Another American League supporter said of the Free Choice group: "We want them to know what they're doing is wrong. We want them to turn and repent of their pro-choice belief. You can't abort babies. It's against the Catholic faith."


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