by KEVIN TAYLOR & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & "H & lt;/span & ow many unborn babies have you guys killed in the last year?" This is the question a Spokane legislator repeatedly asked a group of high school students visiting his Olympia office to lobby for family planning and increased funding for sex education.
"It was pretty appalling," says Elizabeth Wilhelm, a Ferris High School sophomore, of the meeting with Rep. John Ahern (R-Sixth District) on Jan. 21.
Wilhelm and about a dozen others, all members of the Teen Advisory Board for Planned Parenthood of the Inland Northwest, had traveled by bus for an annual Lobby Day trip. They made appointments to see legislators representing their own districts, Sixth, Third or Ninth.
"We knew John Ahern was a Republican, and we didn't expect he would support our cause," says Hannah Dean, a junior at Lewis and Clark High School. "We did expect him to listen and be respectful, which he was not."
Dean and others say Ahern at first refused to look at the group and directed his comments to their chaperone, who told Ahern it was the students doing the lobbying. Talk to them, she said.
Ahern asked several more times, the students say, "How many unborn babies have you guys killed in the last year?"
"I couldn't get a straight answer. That's why I asked not once but several times," Ahern recalls, adding he is sorry if he had hurt the students' feelings.
"I love to debate differences of opinion. That's what makes America great," says Ahern. "We have a basic difference of opinion. They are pro-abortion; I am pro-life."
"We were flabbergasted. We told him we didn't kill any babies. We tried to get back on topic, but he persisted," says David Beaumier, a junior at LC.
Abortions are only two percent of what Planned Parenthood does, the students say. By lobbying for education and prevention, "We said we are doing something that may potentially reduce abortion rates in Washington state. We said the things we lobby for in no way promote abortion," Beaumier adds.
Most students are not yet eligible to vote. "I'm only 15, but when I can vote my first vote will be for anyone running against John Ahern," Wilhelm says.