Cherry Hill, New Jersey – Nov. 28, 1987. Nearly 300 block the entrance to the Cherry Hill Women’s Center, 210 are arrested.
New York City – May 2-6, 1988. More than 800 pro-lifers from across the U.S. (and Canada) stage a week of peaceful sit-ins. These include a Catholic Bishop, 3 rabbis, 3 nuns and over 35 priests and ministers. A total of 647 are arrested.
Jackson, Mississippi – May 14, 1988. Over 150 pro-lifers participate in the first ever Rescue Mission in Mississippi. Half the abortion bound mothers are turned away. Police arrest ex-abortionist Dr. Beverly McMillan.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – July 4-6, 1988. Abortuaries close for two days as a result of non-violent rescues by almost 900 participants. 591 arrested.
And the rescues continue. In Tallahassee, Rochester and Atlanta pro-lifers are showing that the lives of unborn children are worth the personal cost of arrest and time in jail. After years of frustrated attempts to end legalized child killing, the U.S. pro-life movement has turned in a more militant direction.
Inspiration to the Rescue movement is Joan Andrews, imprisoned for attempting to disconnect the suction machine in a Florida abortuary. (The Interim, September 1988). Andrews sacrificed her freedom, comfort and reputation to identify herself with the 4,000 victims of U.S. abortuaries. Once there was one Joan Andrews. Now there are thousands like her – ready to bring their actions into conformity with their convictions.
She writes, “The rougher it gets for us, the more we can rejoice that we are succeeding; no longer are we treated so much as the privileged born but as the discriminated against pre-born…W must become aligned with them completely and totally or else the double standard separating the pre-born from the rest of humanity will never be eliminated. I don’t want to be treated differently than my brother, my sister. You reject them, you reject me.”
“Up until now,” says a recent pamphlet from Project Rescue of western New York, the pro-life movement has mostly been like the boy who cried ‘Wolf!’ Our cries of ‘murder’ go unheeded by the public and politicians because our actions betray our words. We don’t act like killing children is murder! However, when the nation sees hundreds and hundreds of people kneeling and sitting around a death camp, possibly risking arrest for these children, they will begin to take seriously our claims that abortion is murder. Credibility follows in the wake of sacrifice.”
Operation Rescue’s two stated goals of saving lives and producing the social tension it hopes will outlaw child killing is nowhere more apparent than in Atlanta.
From July 19 (during the Democratic National Convention) when 134 militant pro-lifers were jailed in the city’s first rescue mission, to August 31, the Georgia capital’s abortion industry has been targeted by 16 waves of sit-ins, said Juli Loesch, media spokesperson for Operation Rescue.
The cumulative arrest total as of August 31 (the time of writing) was 752, with approximately 165 of those locked up in Atlanta’s jails, she added. These remain imprisoned because at least for a few days or weeks, they will not identify themselves except as “Baby John Doe” or “Baby Jane Doe.”
They make themselves symbolic, in their own plight, of the helpless and nameless babies doomed to abortion,” wrote Gary Potter in the August 4 Wanderer.
Operation Rescue’s lawyer in Atlanta successfully negotiated with judge and district attorney on July 22 for the release of the original rescuers as Baby John and Baby Jane Doe, time served. This decision – which would have been a great victory for the rescue effort – was scuttled by the intervention of Margie Pitt-Hames, a lawyer for the pro-abortion forces. She and others successfully lobbied Mayor Andrew Young to keep unnamed rescuers in jail.
It is troublesome to the pro-lifers in Atlanta to give arrest totals as a gauge of progress, said Loesch. “Our aim is not to get arrested. It is to shut down abortion clinics and to cancel abortions.”
Spectacle of Sacrifice
Though it is difficult to arrive at an exact total, Operation Rescue estimates that in the six weeks of the active campaign, “the number of abortions performed in Atlanta is 1,300 less than the number done in 1986, in the same six week period,” reported Loesch.
“We have reason to believe that hundreds of babies’ lives have actually been spared as a result of our efforts.” Loesch pointed to the huge increase in the number of women seeking alternatives to abortion in the city’s pregnancy counseling centers.
It was important to provide a “spectacle of sacrifice,” she conceded, but it was far more urgent and in keeping with the primary goal of the rescue movement to save babies’ lives.
Loesch outlined Operation Rescue’s plans for the next six weeks. Up to then, she remarked, rescue organizers had issued a general call to “come to Atlanta” and participate in a rescue. Lowell Patterson, former media spokesman, said August 18 that Operation Rescue was considering designating Atlanta as a kind of recruiting and training camp for rescuers.
This idea has clearly been put to one side. According to Loesch, organizers “want to put rescue action on a back burner for six weeks (we might do one sit-in a week, with local people). We’re not recruiting. What we’re doing is digging in for a much more protracted struggle. Operation Rescue is organizing a permanent office. We’re going to be strengthening our bonds with the local church and pro-life community.
Following this retrenchment period, Operation Rescue intends in the first week of October to deal a crippling blow to Atlanta’s abortion industry. All abortuaries in the city and vicinity will be blocked by an army of rescuers expected to number close to 4000.
Three Canadians were among the 214 pro-lifers arrested July 29 in suburban Amherst, near Buffalo, N.Y., when they successfully shut down the clinic owned and operated by a notorious local abortionist, Paul J. Davis.
Participants in Project Rescue effectively blocked the clinic doors from 6:30 a.m. to approximately noon, when the last of them were arrested and taken away by Amherst police.
Organizers judged the rescue a success for several reasons. Advance publicity and uncertainty on the part of Buffalo politicians and police as to where the rescue would be mounted, ensured that abortuaries in the city did not open.
Davis’ clinic is located near a major highway leading into Buffalo. That morning thousands of suburban commuters were treated to a huge unfurled banner with the words, “NO MORE DEAD BABIES.”
As in the case of Atlanta’s rescue actions, Amherst’s was not primarily to attract media publicity, but to save children “unjustly sentenced to death.” Nevertheless, organizers of the event rated the coverage as “excellent.”
The pro-life message was broadcast repeatedly, much to the consternation of abortion advocates. Confronted by peaceful, law-abiding and concerned citizens, Jo Osborne, public affairs co-ordinator for Buffalo’s Planned Parenthood, was reduced to telling transparent lies. Rescuers were “bused in, “unemployed,” and “promised a fun weekend in exchange for the participation,” she alleged.
Kathleen Moore, 37, a mother of two and a Mississauga, Ontario schoolteacher was the only female Canadian to be arrested in the Amherst rescue. Moore is also a dedicated member of the Pentecostal Queensway Cathedral. She believes God called her, and other Christians to the rescue movement to sacrifice something of themselves – comfort, reputation, a job if necessary – to halt the slaughter of the innocents.
“We, in fact, as Christians have the weaponry to fight these battles in the spirit,” Moore said. “When I heard of Rev. Ken Campbell’s programme that there was a rescue in Buffalo, I just knew the Lord wanted me to be at it.”
She was particularly impressed by the obedience and spirituality of the rescuers. She had to count the personal cost before volunteering for the rescue. Once Moore had made that decision, she, like all her fellow rescuers, had to sign a solemn pledge to be peaceful and non-violent, in both word and deed; to co-operate with the police; to follow the instructions of the Project Rescue crowd control marshals; and to continue singing and praying with the main group.
If the current state of lawlessness in Canada continues for any length of time, a rescue movement will spring up here, Moore told The Interim.
“The idea of a rescue is just to shut down the abortion clinic for a day and save those lives that would have been taken. That’s the goal. It may not, on the whole, look like a huge success, but it is something.
A rescue undertaken in Canada would face a different response from the police, Moore warned. In the U.S., both rescuers and police operate within a long tradition of respect for civil liberties and civil disobedience. This is not the case in Canada. Here, even a peaceful, non-resisting group of rescuers risk having “their head cracked,” she said.