West Seattle Summer Fest to allow abortion-issue advocacy after all

Last night, the political-news website PubliCola reported that this year, abortion-rights-supporting organizations NARAL and Planned Parenthood were not being allowed to have booths at West Seattle Summer Festsee the PubliCola report here, and a followup here. The PubliCola report has been a hot topic in the WSB Forums all day long. Minutes ago, West Seattle Junction Association director Susan Melrose sent WSB and PubliCola this statement – saying they’ve changed their minds.

After the 2009 West Seattle Summer Fest, the West Seattle Junction Association (WSJA) decided to not accept organizations into the event to discuss the issue of abortion. In past years, WSJA received strong negative feedback from the public against how the issue of abortion was being presented though we had asked these organizations to be contentious. Many families wrote, called and emailed that the graphic displays still offered by certain groups were not appropriate for their children. Summer Fest is a family and community oriented event, therefore WSJA listened to community input and chose not to accept any organizations to debate abortion. This seemed like a fair way to address the issue since not all applicants are accepted into the festival due to limited space. The first responsibility of the WSJA is to our community and we were responding to community feedback.

Now the West Seattle community has spoken out again. After it was publicized that pro-choice and pro-life organizations would not be registered with Summer Fest, we received calls and e-mails that many do want this issue to be presented at the event. Our organization has no position on this issue and our decision to not accept organizations from either side of this debate was based solely on the feedback of the community who we tried to accommodate.

Based on recent community input, WSJA has made the decision to allow one booth for each side of the issue into this year’s festival. In our effort to be neutral, we created a far greater stir than expected. We hope to respond to and remedy the initial complaints by having vendors sign a statement that all displays and handouts are subject to approval by WSJA.

47 Replies to "West Seattle Summer Fest to allow abortion-issue advocacy after all"

  • k July 7, 2010 (9:05 pm)

    thank you!

  • JanS July 7, 2010 (9:17 pm)

    Thanks for sharing this, TR, and thank you WSJA for doing this.

  • CarolPB July 7, 2010 (9:55 pm)

    thanks to all that commented on the forum-I think this is what changed everything!

  • Sabra Schneider July 7, 2010 (10:04 pm)

    Yippee! This is great news. I was just about to start a facebook page advocating to let NARAL and Planned Parenthood back into the summer festival. Thanks WSJA for listening to community feedback.

  • SarahScoot July 7, 2010 (10:07 pm)

    “…how the issue of abortion was being presented though we had asked these organizations to be contentious…”
    Hmm, maybe they should have tried to ask these organizations to be *courteous*? Or *not* contentious? If WSJA asked them to be contentious in the past, then the anti- and pro-choice groups were really just fulfilling that request, no?

    • WSB July 7, 2010 (10:15 pm)

      SarahS, I have already sent a followup asking if that was really the word they meant. Probably won’t hear back till morning. Have also asked which are the groups that will be representing the “two sides.” – TR

  • Seattle Rocks July 7, 2010 (10:09 pm)

    Why can’t we have a politics free WS Summerfest? Does the abortion issue really need to be at this event? Ugh…,

  • Marcee Stone July 7, 2010 (10:10 pm)

    This is the best news. There are people in our district that can really use the information of these valuable organizations. I am so proud to be a West Seattle native. Thank you WSJA and the West Seattle Blog for sharing this.

  • lenguamor July 7, 2010 (10:18 pm)

    When did we backslide into the ’50s? Can someone pinpoint that moment for me?

  • Sierra Hansen July 7, 2010 (10:35 pm)

    Thank you, WSJA, for reversing your initial decision. As a member and volunteer with NARAL, and an Alki resident actively supporting local Junction businesses, I appreciate your inclusion of these groups in this year’s Summerfest.

    To be clear, NARAL works to ensure women have access not only to safe and legal abortions, but we are finding ourselves working more and more on issues we’ve come to take for granted such as access to birth control and medically accurate, comprehensive sex education.

    I can’t wait to see my neighbors at the festival this weekend while enjoying food, beverages and doing a little shopping!

  • jonfredlund July 7, 2010 (10:45 pm)

    My good friend Mike Heavey said he wouldn’t attend if NARAL couldn’t. I told him he was crazy to miss all the good music. I guess he was in the right.


  • add July 7, 2010 (10:49 pm)

    I think “contentious” was a mis-spelling or typo (or Freudian slip?) for “conscientious”.

  • Leroy July 7, 2010 (11:03 pm)

    From my understanding both pro life and pro choice groups were not able to access the fair. Tracy – I think this should have been clear in your blurb. Sarah – you may correct my spelling, sentence structure and grammar now.

  • Leroy July 7, 2010 (11:22 pm)

    oh – and ‘jonfredland’ – please give it a rest.

  • Lorelee July 7, 2010 (11:34 pm)

    Eeeewww. I hate those pro life displays. If naral is allowed then those gross people with posters of bloody fetuses will be allowed. I totally understand why wsja took their intital stance. Too bad they backed down. I agree with above commenter- keep it politic free!

  • WSB July 7, 2010 (11:39 pm)

    All that I have reported above is, PubliCola said X, and tonight the Junction Association statement said X. In that context, what I have written is accurate, as I am only reporting that something was said, not whether or not the ‘something’ was accurate.
    I spent some time today attempting to follow up on this, and spoke with Susan Melrose as part of that (which is why tonight’s statement was sent to us as well as PubliCola) but I did not collect enough independent information to be able to say without attribution, groups x, y, and z were told no, so I don’t know if any anti-abortion advocates applied and were rejected. I couldn’t find a 2009 roster to see who was at the festival regarding this issue this year; we did have a copy of the 2008 program on our server
    and while it lists NARAL and Planned Parenthood, there is no group there that I recognize as being an anti-abortion-advocacy group.
    I do make a point above of writing “not allowed to have booths” rather than saying “banned from” the festival, because of course it’s a public street, so anyone had the right all along to show up and be unofficially in that public right of way. If you followed the comment thread on PubliCola, at one point today someone identifying themselves as being from NARAL in fact wrote, they would show up at the event anyway, they just wouldn’t be in a booth.

  • visitor July 7, 2010 (11:43 pm)

    I was about to make the same comment: contentious? ha ha ha. they were just doing what they were asked, then. And Leroy, it’s not a matter of being the grammar police; if you don’t say what you mean, you can’t expect people to understand.

    As I recall from past events, it’s the anti-abortionists who have the really graphic illustrations.

  • Leroy July 8, 2010 (12:09 am)

    Of course it is – that’s the point !

  • Noelle July 8, 2010 (12:22 am)

    I remember the drama – free “West Seattle Street Fair” that I grew up going to. My biggest worry was if I needed sun block or an umbrella with me as i enjoyed our local fair. Forget about “Back sliding” to the 50’s. I just miss the 80’s and 90’s. Back then You NEVER saw any controversial topics battling for space between the gyros stand and the bouncy house. Those were the days.

  • A July 8, 2010 (7:36 am)

    Great! My 3 year old can pick up another 12 week old fetus “doll”. Last year he took one and named it Wanda. It will be interesting explaining the booth to him this year. Makes no sense to me that we’re put in a position as parents to explain to a child what those booths mean. You can’t walk by without noticing them either so that’s not an option.

  • Kayleigh July 8, 2010 (8:04 am)

    I appreciate the spirit of fairness in allowing both sides. But when I go to the fair, honestly, I just want to eat strawberry shortcake and look at homemade soaps. I don’t want to think about abortion. Call me shallow.

  • Jerry July 8, 2010 (8:10 am)

    Classic Seattle. Take a stand based on public input then change your mind based on more public input. If they didn’t allow them this year, they’d probably get a little feedback and then by next year nobody would likely even remember or care.

  • MikeoffAlki July 8, 2010 (8:14 am)

    Why does abortion even have to ba addressed at a family function like the WS Street Fair! Get over it, and just have fun!

  • Lucyk July 8, 2010 (8:25 am)

    What a shame. This is supposed to be hometown fun, not angry politics. Some people are so issue driven that they can’t know when to give it a rest. Thank you very much for pressuring the fair and making that decision for all of us. Talk about a relentless business!

  • sam July 8, 2010 (8:39 am)

    “You can’t walk by without noticing them either so that’s not an option.”
    I’ve been to the West Seattle Street Fair the last few years, and have happened to miss them. not on purpose, but it is possible. I didn’t even know it was an issue until the publicola article.
    what I don’t understand from BOTH sides (NARAL and pro-life) is the ‘advocacy’ which is really to me just hatred and arguing from both sides.
    I know pro-life people who vote based on that one issue but whenever their person gets elected, does anything happen? I mean George Bush was in office for 8 years, did anything come up in regards to abortion rights?

    I understand planned parenthood, and helping people understand their options and how to find those options, but as far as ‘advocacy’ from either side, is Roe v Wade seriously going to be overturned anytime soon – I mean really ?

    hopefully I’ll be able to avoid this mess again this year.

  • Krystal July 8, 2010 (8:56 am)

    Well said, Kayleigh. Love the fairness, all for free speech, but sort of annoyed because I too want the strawberry shortcake!

  • AnotherIdiotInWS July 8, 2010 (8:57 am)

    Next time, can the WSJA just make a decision and stick to it?
    Aside from seeing some cool bands playing this year, there should be some interesting fireworks near these stands. I am pretty certain there will be some “nice” crowds hanging out and yelling towards BOTH these booths. But the mangled fetus dolls ought to be highlite of the fair. Way to go, WSJA!

  • Tim Nuse July 8, 2010 (8:58 am)

    Planned Parenthood is not just about abortion. The issues they advocate are education, women’s empowerment, community health, and access to health care. I am extremely pleased to see WSJA had a change of heart on this issue. Had they not, the 34th District Democrats were reaching out to Planned Parenthood today and offering space at our table.
    And I couldn’t agree more that the disturbing images of some groups have no place at Summer Fest. Completely innaccurate shock and awe has no place in our community, nor do anti-women messages.

  • OP July 8, 2010 (9:44 am)

    WSJA’s original decision was its best decision. Spineless.

  • bsmomma July 8, 2010 (9:44 am)

    I’m with Sam…… I have gone to the street fair every year for the past 20+ years, now I take my daughter, and I have not noticed these pro/anti abortion people. So it is possible to not notice. Maybe they’re down by the blow up slide bouncy houses???? We stear clear of that area anyways. :)Anyhoo, regardless of who’s going to be there, we are so ready to have some fun, eat some good food and buy things we don’t need!

  • k July 8, 2010 (9:46 am)

    those of you still concerned with the possibility of vile images being used to promote the pro-life stance…please read this line from the WSJA: “We hope to respond to and remedy the initial complaints by having vendors sign a statement that all displays and handouts are subject to approval by WSJA.”> sounds to me like they will not allow those images to be used.

  • D July 8, 2010 (9:53 am)

    @Sam, I understand your point that advocacy just can’t be that effective to really sway public opinion, but it can and does. When people vote according to this one issue, it matters a lot. George Bush instituted the total ban on funding of any groups that provide abortions in other nations, then he extended that policy to prevent pro-choice funding within all State Department programs. He also cut off funding for the UNFPA, a United Nations agency supporting international reproductive health. He signed every piece of anti-choice legislation that came to his desk. Under his administration “abstinance only” was forced on schools, an abortion doctor was murdered while in church, and two pro life justices were placed on the Supreme Court. The Roe v. Wade decision is actually very fragile. It’s based on narrow and subjective law that would be easily overturned given the “right” (so to speak) bench.

  • fitz shirling July 8, 2010 (10:05 am)


    Saying Planned Parenthood is not just about abortion is like saying Pizza Hut isn’t just about pizza. Sure, they have bread sticks but if they couldn’t sell pizza, they would be out of business.

    I don’t see how a having abortion booths (pro and against) improve the festive atmosphere. Can’t we just party?? :)

  • villagegreen July 8, 2010 (10:26 am)

    Jerry – “Classic Seattle. Take a stand based on public input then change your mind based on more public input.”

    Ain’t it the (sad) truth. Knee jerk decisions and sudden reversals are not what the public wants.

  • Tim Nuse July 8, 2010 (10:29 am)

    I’m all about having a great time at Summer Fest and will be doing plenty of it!
    Planned Parenhood is in the business of health care. They empower women and families to make educated decisions which ultimately reduce the need for some women to make that very difficult decision to have an abortion. Their very goal is to increase education and empowerment and access to health care. Reducing abortions through these means is their business.
    I’m hoping everyone has a great time this weekend. The 34th District Democrats will be there in force, empowering neighbors to have their voices heard, and partying it up!

  • SarahScoot July 8, 2010 (10:34 am)

    Fitz, Tim is actually very correct, and your metaphor doesn’t work here. The majority of Planned Parenthood’s services are annual exams, STD testing, birth control prescribing (including IUD insertion), and general sex education. When I had crappy insurance and made little money, PP was my best resource for exams and BC refills because they take insurance and provided free BC pills through a state program for those who qualified.
    In fact, if I remember correctly, abortions were only provided at one regional PP clinic (again, I may have this wrong but don’t want to google this info at work). That is certainly not the service that they are all about.

    All that said, I am another who thinks that anti-choice and pro-choice groups alike don’t have a right to booths at Summer Fest, and I know that the anti-choice booths have definitely made me uncomfortable in the past. I consider Planned Parenthood separate from the pro/anti battle, so I think it would have been fair to allow their booth, but not NARAL’s and not the anti-choice groups’.
    As Tracy said, the festival takes place in a public forum, so those groups are always within their rights to peacefully stump for their causes as festival-goers if their booth requests were denied.

  • tpn July 8, 2010 (10:47 am)

    Hey! You got your politics in my Family Event!
    Oh Yeah? You got your family Event in my Politics!
    (fighting ensues).

  • angelescrest July 8, 2010 (10:50 am)

    Family means all ages. And, Tim’s right: Planned Parenthood is MORE than abortion. In this fragile economy, where many lack health insurance, Planned Parenthood is the only resort for women of all ages who need contraceptives and/or other health care. My son’s girlfriend relies on PP, as she has no other health insurance. I think it’s important that women know what services PP provides…even at a Street Fair, where I’m guessing 50% of the crowd will be female.

  • Whit July 8, 2010 (11:31 am)

    As a young woman who is pro-life, I have gone to PP for exams, BC, and many of their other services. I am glad both sides will be at the fair, but instead of playing politics, I hope that they do what booths at fairs are supposed to do- outreach. The booths are not there to change people’s political opinions, but there for people when they have an unexpected pregnancy, to know that there is support for which ever choice they make. As a pro-life supporter, the last thing I want is a young girl to be turned away from the pro-life booth because she is intimidated by the images of abortions. Save politics for later, lets focus on the people looking for a place to turn.

  • Marcee Stone July 8, 2010 (11:40 am)

    I am thrilled at the reconsideration and change of heart by WSJA. I have a 100% rating by NARAL and know the valuable work they and Planned Parenthood do. There are many in need in our community that will be able to take advantage of their educational resources. The anti-choice groups will always politicize this issue any chance they get. A retreat by the WSJA would have only allowed this to continue. I am proud to be a native West Seattle-ite and proud of our tolerant community and that calmer minds have prevailed.

  • AnotherIdiotInWS July 8, 2010 (12:01 pm)

    How embarrassing that the prospective politicians are now commenting on the WSB.
    This was not “reconsideration” by the WSJA, it was mere succumming to pressure. And how in the world is someone going to “monitor” the handouts? You don’t think both sides are going to be there without being “armed to the teeth” with their best stuff? Trust me, my naive neighbors… this is going to be nasty at times and I will bet the SPD get involved. No way this scenario created by WSJA plays out where everyone is sitting around sipping tea and giggling from sharing our stories.
    Again, well done, WSJA!

  • Gary July 8, 2010 (12:29 pm)

    Sounds like Summer Fest has turned into a political fund-raising event. It will be a good weekend for my family to spend our money elsewhere.

  • A July 8, 2010 (1:10 pm)

    SAM…It’s not hard to miss them if you walk down the street! They have a booth with little fake fetuses on their table. If you have a kid with you, especially one who likes dolls, they could see it too. Just because you in particular haven’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not out there in the open…it is.

  • Teri July 8, 2010 (3:08 pm)

    Whit, well stated. Outreach. Let’s give women accurate information, resources and support so they can make their own, informed decisions.

  • NotInMyYard July 8, 2010 (4:44 pm)

    If there is any sort of noise coming from either side, I will take may family elsewhere.

  • OP July 8, 2010 (8:50 pm)

    The anti-choice groups will always politicize this issue any chance they get. Oh like you don’t.

    Keep eff-ing politics away from our fairs. Period.

  • WSHC July 8, 2010 (9:32 pm)

    One two three four
    West Seattle Hardcore!

Sorry, comment time is over.