All 94 pro-life prisoners in Vermont were released May 9 after Judge Matthew Katz convicted them of trespass and sentenced them to time served on February 19 and 20. Most of them had been held for over 75 days, after their arrest for rescue efforts at an abortion site in Burlington, Vermont. They stayed in jail, nameless, until probation penalties on two other rescuers were removed.
The month-long standoff ended when the rescuers gave their names and pleaded not guilty to charges. Released with them were two serving time for violating probation. The extended jail time had begun to gain national attention.
Among the 94 who served 78 days were Canadians Elaine Grant, 50, Peter Hendrick, 34, and Bill de Marois, 65, all of Toronto. The Waterbury group was the largest group in jail for the longest time in the history of the United States, for any cause. The prisoners included nationally known rescue leaders Joan Andrews and Tom Herlihy.
The Catholics had daily Mass because they counted among them three priests: Fathers Norman Weslin, Rosario Thomas and Gene Daniels.
Visitors to the prisoners included Father James Morrow of Scotland, Msgr. Ney de Da Earp of Brazil, Randy Terry of Binghamton, New York State and Rabbi Levin of New York City.
Finally, in a surprising gesture, and on the initiative of their Brazilian visitor Monsignor Ney, 86 Brazilian bishops sent a letter of solidarity to the leaders of the rescue. The letter saluted their “work in defense of life and Christian values” and was personally signed by each of the 86 prelates.
Rescue forces are regrouping after more than 23,000 arrests in 1989. That year, says Mary Meehan, pro-life affairs correspondent for the Denver-based national Catholic Register, “saw more arrests for blocking abortion clinics than the previous 14 years combined.”
A comprehensive Register survey found 23,367 rescue arrests in 1989. This pushed the US total since 1975 up to at least 39,243. (In Canada, in 1989, nearly 2,000 pro-lifers were arrested).
Although local rescue groups are still active, Operation Rescue’s visibility has declined since last fall. Heavy financial penalties, severe charges and prison sentences from pro-abortion judges are the main reasons.
Dividing five to four, the U.S. Supreme Court on May 14 upheld the Supreme Court of Georgia’s injunction barring pro-lifers from conducting rescues at abortion mills in Atlanta.
The injunction prohibits “demonstrations, pickets or protests” within 50 feet of the abortuary’s property line and bars anyone from “seeking to pass a leaflet…or engage in oral protests, education or counseling” within five feet of a person who does not give “express oral consent.”
On May 21, the same Court upheld the use of an 1871 law – originally intended to fight the Klu Klux Klan – to impose fines against pro-lifers who block access to abortion facilities.
The case on which the court ruled was based on a lawsuit filed in 1988 by the National Organization for Women (NOW), Planned Parenthood, National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and some New York abortion “clinics.” This suit led to fines of more than $69,000 levied against the Operation Rescue organization headed by Randall Terry.
On May 29, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide whether federally funded life-prevention facilities commonly called family planning clinics can be prohibited from promoting abortion. There are 4,000 such clinics, the majority operated by Planned Parenthood, which annually receive $200 million in taxpayer-provided money under Title X of the Public Health Services Act.
According to the media bi-weekly Between the Lines, the term ‘pro-choice’ is falling out of favor with the press. A survey of major metropolitan newspapers indicate that papers such as the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune have dropped the term recently. Other such as the New York Times and the Washington Post have banned the term earlier.
“Pro-choice” is the euphemism for abortion rights advocates or advocates of unrestricted abortion. These hide behind the term “pro-choice” to convey the impression of being champions of freedom. Abortion, of course, results in death, not freedom.