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Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington, left, and intern Danielle Nuezca, an 18-year-old political science student at San Francisco State University, package coat hangers to send to 20 Democrat members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted to restrict federal funding for abortions in the health care bill on Wednesday Dec. 9, 2009. The coat hangers are a "symbol of the horrible pain and suffering endured by women as a result of years of anti-choice policies imposed by our government," according to the letter that accompanies the coat hangers. (Doug Oakley/Staff)

The city of Berkeley made an official statement on abortion Wednesday by sending coat hangers — a symbol of illegal abortions — to 20 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives who voted to restrict federal funding for abortions in the health care bill.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who co-sponsored the item before the City Council on Tuesday night with Susan Wengraf and Linda Maio, put the coat hangers and an official city letter in the mail Wednesday.

"The coat hanger represents the time when women had to have abortions in back alleys and tried to self-abort," Wengraf said. "My initial take was this is too extreme. But women's reproductive health is very important to me.

"I don't want my granddaughter to go through what my grandmothers had to. I don't want it compromised. I don't think the health care bill is reform if it excludes access to women's reproductive health care."

The City Council voted 8-1, with Mayor Tom Bates absent, to send the hangers and the letter. Councilmember Gordon Wozniak voted no.

"I think the coat hanger is an inappropriate symbol, and it could backfire on us," Wozniak said.

The letter to the 20 Democrats reads in part: "We know that you have been supportive of a woman's right to choose throughout your legislative career, we implore you to continue. "... Please reconsider your vote. "... We have never sent a coat hanger to anyone before. We are taking this unusual but important step to emphasize the importance of this message."


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The Senate killed a similar provision in its version of the health care bill Tuesday night.

Worthington said he decided to bring the item to the City Council because his constituents were outraged at the amendment. He said he did not want to send hangers to anti-abortion representatives because "nothing the city of Berkeley says to them will make any difference."