Pro-life activists mourn woman dead a decade
By Scott Solomon, FLORIDA TODAY
Clutching red carnations, singing and praying, about 50 pro-life supporters staged a memorial service Monday in Melbourne for a woman who died 88 hours after having an abortion.
Although it has been a decade since 21-year-old Maureen Lynn Tyke died, both sides in the abortion battle continue to disagree about what happened to her.
On a day splashed in sunshine, pro-life supporters used the 10th anniversary of Tyke’s death to advance their cause, saying she was among a number of women who have died as the result of legal abortions.
“Ultimately the reason we’re out here is to stand up for babies that are being killed,” said Palm Bay resident Robert Kopitzke, 28, a chemist at Florida Tech in Melbourne.
Across the street, at Aware Woman Center for Choice, where Tyke’s abortion was performed in May 1983, clinic owner Patricia Baird Windle said medical records support an entirely different conclusion.
Several days after Tyke’s death, the Brevard County Medical Examiner’s Office issued a statement saying her death had been caused by inflammation of the heart muscle, a condition known as myocarditis.
Windle said the inflammation resulted from a dental infection Tyke revealed only after her abortion. “When Maureen Tyke died, it had nothing to do with her abortion,” Windle said.
In a phone interview from his home in North Huntington, Pa., Tyke’s father, Anthony, said he wishes only that his daughter would have told him about her decision to have an abortion.
“I’m sure she would not have gotten into that situation,” he said.
Tyke said his daughter was raised in a Catholic family opposed to abortion, and he was not opposed to pro-life supporters commemorating her death.
“I hold society responsible, and the clinic is part of it,” he said. “The clinic is a business to make money; that’s their intention. Their interest is not people.”
Michelle Trent, a senior counselor at Aware Woman said prolife groups act out of frustration from “not being able to control women and not being able to make their choices the law.”
“They want us to live our lives in their mode,” she said.
Monday’s ceremony was held on the front lawn of property across the street from the clinic – property owned by the pro-life group Operation Rescue. Supporters had set up mock headstones inscribed with the names of women, including Tyke, the group says died from legal abortions. The also set up crosses representing their unborn babies.
Unlike previous occasions on which abortion rights and pro-life activists have gathered to express their views, Monday’s ceremony remained peaceful – a surprise to some abortion rights supporters.
“If the behavior we’re seeing today was the kind of behavior we saw always, we could probably co-exist peacefully,” said Suzanne Steidl of Port St. John. “They prayed quietly and didn’t harass anyone who came into the clinic.”