Abortion Crusaders

Can a Chattaroy couple really overturn Roe v. Wade?

Larry and Ginny Cronin want the courts to answer when life begins. “Who a human being is, and who a person is, has never been decided,” says Larry Cronin, a social worker.

Last year, the couple sued the Spokane Police Department, seeking a court order compelling the department to investigate abortions taking place at Planned Parenthood as homicides.

A Spokane judge tossed out the case.

“Frankly, I don’t have any authority to act on this whatsoever,” Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno told them when denying their petition. She pointed to the fact that abortion is legal. “The law is the law.”

But the Cronins aren’t finished. They took their case to the state Court of Appeals in January, asking the court to grant them a writ of mandamus — a type of order that, in this case, would be used to compel Spokane police to investigate abortions as homicides. Short of that, the couple asks the court to put the decisions in the hands of a jury. A hearing to weigh their appeal has been scheduled for next month.

Larry Cronin is representing himself and is joined by his wife and three co-plaintiffs. Their briefs are filled with references to Abraham Lincoln, Dred Scott, the Declaration of Independence, and other key figures in American history. Larry Cronin says he sees abortion as an issue comparable to slavery and civil rights.

“We now have two sets of laws for people of our country,” he says: One for after a child leaves the womb and one for before. “There’s nothing in the Constitution for there to be two sets of laws.”

Meanwhile, Karl Eastlund, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, writes in a statement that the suit “is a patently frivolous ploy by the political fringe to restrict women’s access to health care.”

The type of writ the Cronins seek is rare, says Alan McNeil, an associate professor of clinical law at Gonzaga University. Only once has McNeil brought one, and that was to get a judge to allow a jury trial in a certain case.

If the Court of Appeals were to allow the petition to be granted, McNeil believes, it could be the type of lawsuit that could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, giving abortion foes a long-desired chance at overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized the procedure.

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About The Author

Chris Stein

Chris Stein is a staff writer at The Inlander. He covers social services, downtown Spokane, Eastern Washington and Spokane city hall. His work has been published by the Associated Press, VeloNews and the Santa Barbara Independent. He was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area.