Wire Service: UPn (UPI US & World)

The United Press International

Birth control advocate pickets St. Patrick's Cathedral

Date: Tue, Mar 22, 1994


NEW YORK, March 22 (UPI) -- To mark the 22nd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing contraceptives for single adults, pioneering birth control advocate Bill Baird picketed St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan Tuesday and condemned Pope John Paul II's recent edict to Roman Catholic pharmacists.

The operator of two now-defunct abortion clinics, Baird gained notoriety in 1967 when he was arrested and jailed for distributing contraceptive foam during a speech at Boston University. Five years later, he became the plaintiff in the legal battle over birth control laws.

Standing outside St. Patrick's with a wooden cross propped against his shoulder, Baird launched a tirade against the pope and New York Cardinal John O'Connor, accusing the Vatican of zealously circumventing protected freedoms.

"The church is public enemy No. 1 of health care," he said. "They have a right to their religion, but they should not try to stop the legal sale of birth control."

He said he was enraged by the pope's February message to Catholic pharmacists in which he decreed they should not sell birth control devices or products that promote euthanasia and abortion.

According to news reports on the meeting with pharmacists, the pope said druggists should not carry any products that contradict church teachings.

Flanked by veteran feminist Flo Kennedy and a half-dozen supporters, Baird trekked into the historic cathedral and handed a statement addressed to O'Connor to the archdiocese's director of security.

The Catholic Church was not Baird's only target. He also slammed abortion rights groups like the National Organization for Women and the National Abortion Rights Action League for not joining the protest.

"This is an historic day for women's rights, but these feminists are saying, 'Bill Baird, you're a man. Get out of the movement,'" he said.

NARAL Executive Director Kelly Conlon said the organization was invited to the protest, but it was logistically impossible to attend. "It had nothing to do with support," she said. "We respect what Bill did for the movement."

NOW officials said they were not invited. Outside the cathedral, Baird cautioned passersby against apathy. "In the '60s, I would be standing here with hundreds of people. Now those same people take the rights for granted," he said.

"Everyone thinks that because Clinton is in power, we're safe," he said. "But there will be more shootings of (abortion) doctors and there will be more firebombings of clinics."

(Edited by Harold Martin, New York)