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By TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published April 13 2013

Both sides of abortion debate plan events at Capitol

BISMARCK – Two groups on opposite sides of the abortion debate will cross paths this week at the Capitol.

The North Dakota Right to Life Association, which lobbied for the anti-abortion bills that passed in the Legislature, are planning a rally for Wednesday to thank legislators for their work this session.

At the same time, a Bismarck group, We Will Remember Your Vote, will place flags on the Capitol lawn Tuesday through Thursday as a way to show opposition to the Legislature’s votes for restricting abortions and against nondiscrimination laws for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Organizer Katie Oliver said they want a visual representation to let the Legislature know North Dakotans are paying attention and “will remember their vote when we cast ours.”

“Our main goal is a reminder to the Legislative Assembly of the promise we all have made to ourselves, to not forget the feelings of anger, frustration and a little bit of embarrassment for the issues that we focus so strongly on and where we chose to put our efforts,” Oliver said.

The group is taking emails from North Dakotans who support the group’s cause and submit their name, address and legislative district, which will be on the flags. After the flags are pulled from the Capitol lawn, they will be mailed to the supporters as a reminder.

The group had more than 700 flags Friday afternoon and hopes to put 1,114 flags in the ground, symbolic of next year’s election in November 2014.

“A year and a half is a long time, it’s easy to kind of forget in the downtime,” she said. “We’re hoping to tell legislators a fact, not a threat or a promise, just a fact.”

Paul Maloney, director of the North Dakota Right to Life Association, said its event Wednesday is a way to thank lawmakers for their work.

“We encourage members to call legislators and write them all the time, asking to vote for or against bills, and we always, at end of the year, encourage them to thank their legislators,” Maloney said. “It’s kind of a courtesy. It’s easy to be angry about a bill you’re opposed to or strict about a bill you believe in, but it’s just as important to remind ourselves and legislators there’s that time for gratitude afterward.”

The rally will feature speakers from various organizations, including Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.

He said some Catholic high schools and people from Valley City, Jamestown and Grand Forks plan to charter buses to bring people to the rally.

The rally is set for 3 p.m. on the Capitol steps and will be inside if there is inclement weather.

Neither group expects any trouble from the other.

Oliver said she found out about the Right to Life rally the day after her event was booked.

She said a woman thanked her group on its Facebook page for holding the rally, only to find out she was thanking the wrong organization.

“Our goal and aim is to communicate our feelings in a peaceful, respectful manner,” she said.