Saturday, June 09, 2007

Philadelphia City Council votes 9-8 to go pro-choice

Council votes 9-8 to go pro-choice


By Regan Toomer
Tribune Staff Writer

A resolution that would make Philadelphia a pro-choice city passed narrowly in City Council yesterday with a 9-8 vote. The vote also has council members divided on the role the city plays on abortion.

Councilwoman-at-Large Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced the resolution, but no sooner had she finished asking her colleagues for support, when a domino effect of opposition was heard among Council members.

Councilman Brian J. O’Neill immediately asked Brown to withdraw the resolution – which she refused.

“I think taking the step of having the legislative body of the city announce we are pro-choice versus pro-life … I think it is wrong for us to do and I think it is disrespectful to many taxpayers,” he said. “I don’t believe it is the right thing to do to adopt the city as pro-choice.”

Councilman Frank Rizzo also opposed the resolution, saying it was disrespectful to some of his constituents.

“We have many people that support pro-choice, we have others that are pro-life and I don’t think we as a city should be labeled either,” he said.

Councilwoman Joan Krajewski also opposed the resolution and said there are other issues in the city that Council members should concentrate on.

“I wouldn’t have voted for it one way or the other anyway,” she told The Tribune. “I think Council, what we are doing is, we’re introducing resolutions that have no business in city Council. That’s private. We’re dealing with our trans-fats. We are talking about Iraq, about flying our flags half-staff … when do we stop? With all that is going on in this city with the murders, with the crime rate that is going, let’s start concentrating on that.”

Councilwoman Carol Ann Campbell said she opposed the resolution because it involves an individual choice.

“I don’t think anyone should force their opinion on someone else,” she said. “I don’t believe in that. I don’t think I have the right … it is very presumptuous of me to put people in a situation where they have to vote for something that maybe they really don’t believe in. That’s right for me to have that prerogative, but I can’t force that will on someone else.”

Councilman-at-Large Juan Ramos, who is a Catholic deacon, opposed the resolution because he is pro-life. He said that the vote reflected not only the city, but also the nation, which he said is divided on the issue.

Council President Anna Verna also opposed the resolution for what she said was a personal reason.

“I just think that that’s not a vote that should be taken in this chamber,” she said. “I just think that’s your own choice.”

Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who is a pro-choice advocate, opposed the resolution also because she said it is a personal issue.

“I think for us as a Council to speak for 1.5 million people on an issue that is a personal issue is to me inappropriate,” Tasco said. “I am pro-choice. I believe in a woman’s right to choose. There are people in this city who don’t believe that. We haven’t taken a poll. No one has brought us documentation to say that the majority of people in Philadelphia are pro-choice or pro-life or anything else.”

Tasco added until there is a process to prove what the city thinks on abortion, that city Council should just stay out of the matter.

Brown said Tasco is entitled to her opinion and said that it is appropriate for Council to weigh in controversial national issues like abortion.

“We have a presidential election coming up next year and citizens at every level of government will have an opportunity to weigh in,” Brown said.

O’Neill told the Tribune that the fact that the vote was 9-8 meant that Philadelphia really is not a pro-choice city. However, he said the “timing was right as an example of the wrong message,” as Council members honored members of the Roman Catholic High School basketball team earlier yesterday morning.

Roman Catholic High School being taught pro-life principles, that is part of their religious learning,” he said. “We shouldn’t be sitting in here congratulating for their basketball skills and then telling them we are a pro-choice city, ’cause we’re not. We are pro-choice and a pro-life city. A resolution to that fact would be fine.”

Councilman Jack Kelly, who also opposed the resolution, did not return calls for comment.



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