Thursday, June 14, 2007

Philly Council may shift stand on abortion

Council may shift stand on abortion

At least one and possibly two resolutions are to be debated today to reject last week's "pro-choice" vote.

By Patrick Kerkstra
Inquirer Staff Writer

Philadelphia's status as a "pro-choice" city could come to an end today, just one week after a divided City Council bestowed the symbolic title on the city.

There will be at least one and possibly two votes in today's busy Council session attacking the abortion-rights designation, which was condemned last week by Cardinal Justin Rigali despite the fact that it augured no actual change in Philadelphia's public-health policy.

Sponsored by Democratic Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, the resolution states that Philadelphia supports "women's reproductive rights and freedom" and defends "the right to choose a legal and safe abortion as a final but critical option for women."

It passed by an unusually narrow 9-8 margin, making Philadelphia the only large city in the United States to have adopted such a resolution.

Republican Councilman Frank Rizzo, who opposed last week's measure, will ask Council to vote on a new resolution rescinding the "pro-choice" declaration.

A separate resolution written by Republican Councilman Brian O'Neill emphasizes tolerance of "all schools of opinion" and declares Philadelphia to be a "pro-choice" and a "pro-life" city.

Of the two counter-resolutions, Rizzo's is far harsher. It describes Brown's proclamation as "divisive," and "a waste of City Council's time and effort." It claims last week's resolution "accomplishes nothing, except to pander to a special interest group," and even takes a shot at its margin of victory, calling the 9-8 vote a "pathetically narrow majority."

"I figure this is something you can't really mince words about," Rizzo said. "I've been in this business a while now, but rarely have I seen more people outraged by what happened in our Council chamber."

Brown criticized the "provocative language and tenor" of Rizzo's resolution, and said there was a "way to advance your position while respecting other views."

But Brown said she planned to support O'Neill's resolution. When asked if that signaled a retreat from her position of last week, Brown said she would address the matter publicly at today's Council session.

O'Neill could not be reached for comment.

In addition to the debate over Philadelphia's symbolic position on abortion, Council is expected to vote on dozens of budget and zoning bills in today's session, which is the last before the summer recess. Council is also expected to approve a lease on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the Barnes Foundation.

Contact staff writer Patrick Kerkstra at 215-854-2827 or









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