MONTPELIER - The Vermont Right to Life Committee has booked a bold-face name for its 34th-annual protest against the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States.
Alveda King, niece of the assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., is scheduled to speak on Saturday from the well of the Vermont House in Montpelier. Organizers expect the participation of a King family member on the eve of Black History Month to attract up to 350 demonstrators. That's about 100 more than typically turn out to "mourn" the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling.
King says she will tell Vermonters that a pro-choice stance contravenes her uncle's legacy. "Dr. Martin Luther King was dedicated to nonviolence, and abortion is not nonviolent," the former Georgia state legislator declares. "If you really want to honor Dr. King, then you should stop letting abortionists rip apart babies."
Alveda King casts her militant anti-abortion campaign as an extension of Martin Luther King Jr.'s commitment to social justice. She claims King himself, shot dead in 1968, would have opposed the 1973 decision ending state bans on abortion. The 55-year-old activist cites as evidence an undated passage in a book of King's collected speeches, in which he is quoted as saying, "The Negro cannot win if he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for personal comfort and safety."
In 1966, however, Martin Luther King Jr. received an award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The organization describes the annual award as one given "in recognition of excellence and leadership in furthering reproductive health and reproductive rights." In his acceptance speech, King said he saw "a striking kinship between our movement" and the pro-birth-control campaign led by Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger.
"Negroes have no mere academic nor ordinary interest in family planning. They have a special and urgent concern," King declared on that occasion.
His niece says Planned Parenthood bestowed the award as part of an effort to co-opt African-American leaders into backing abortion rights. And those leaders were wrong, Alveda King claims, to align themselves with an organization that sought to "ethnically cleanse the world of black people." Planned Parenthood's offices in New York and Washington, D.C., did not respond to requests for comments on King's allegations.
Alveda King makes several such incendiary statements without attempting to substantiate them. She says, for example, that abortion is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer and that most women who terminate their pregnancies suffer severe psychological trauma. Reputable medical researchers say there is no scientific basis for these claims.
Perhaps in an effort to associate herself more closely with her uncle, Alveda also refers to herself as "Dr. King." Her doctorate took the form of an honorary degree conferred in 2001 by St. Anselm's College, a Catholic school in New Hampshire.
King says she was emotionally scarred by two abortions she underwent herself. The first, which she describes as "involuntary," was administered two years prior to Roe v. Wade; the second took place soon after the Supreme Court's ruling. King, who has six children, says she planned to end another pregnancy in 1977 but was dissuaded by "two African-American men."
King recounts that the father of one of her children told her, "Nobody's going to kill a child of mine." She identifies the father of Martin Luther King Jr. as the other catalyst for her conversion to the anti-abortion cause. "We don't kill babies," Alveda says the elder King told her.