Seven hundred dedicated pro-lifers descended upon an Upper Manhattan abortuary in New York City on Monday morning, Mary 2, blocked its only entrance with their bodies and effectively stopped abortions there for the entire day.
It was the first day of the weeklong series of similar massive sit-ins in New York called Operation Rescue. Led by 29-year-old Randall Terry, President of Project Life of Binghampton, N.Y., 503 of the 700 rescuers were arrested, carried away on stretchers into buses, and hauled to the amphitheatre of the New York Police Academy. They were subsequently charged with disorder conduct, subpoenaed for an early June court appearance and released. They returned in substantially smaller numbers (just over 400) during the following days and blocked abortuaries in Queens and Long Island.
About 25 members of the clergy participated in Operation Rescue and were arrested. This group included one Catholic bishop, Austin Vaughan, auxiliary of Orange Country, several priests of Latin and Orthodox faiths, three or four rabbis, several Protestant pastors and three religious Sisters.
In addition, tight end Mark Bavaro of the National Football League’s New York Giants, put his body on the line for the babies. Bavaro is vice-chairman of Athletes for Life, a group organized by baseball star Tommy Herr.
Adelle Nathanson, wife of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, was arrested alongside Bavaro.
The activists came from all over America, including Alaska and Oregon. They congregated each morning at the Times Square Hotel, Manhattan, where the majority of them stayed. After a group of guides equipped with miniature American flags received the name and location of the abortuary targeted for that day (and kept secret until the time of the sit-in), they rushed their mini-groups through the New York subway systems in a deliberate zig-zag to mislead the police.
Upon reaching the subway station closet to the abortuary they rushed to the street, scurried around the corner and sat, side-by-side on the sidewalk bordering the entrance of the “clinic” of Herbert Schwartz at 154 East 85th Street. The clock read 8:00 a.m. It took New York police about 90 minutes to arrive, and an additional four to five hours to complete the arrests.
The event included songs, prayers and speeches by Randy Terry, his aides and the clergy. Media attendance coverage was good. About a dozen noisy counter-demonstrators appeared and tried in vain to disrupt the peaceful, prayerful and non-violent action. The anti-lifers employed mechanical whistles and repeated chants, “No Church, no state! Women alone decide their fate! And “Five, six, seven, eight – Don’t tell us how to procreate! They added, “Operation Rescue,” your name is a lie! You don’t care if women die!” Another chant: “Sexist, racist, anti-gay! Born-again bigots, go away!
Every evening Operation Rescue was evaluated by participants and a pep rally was held in a Gospel Church. At one such meeting, an 18-year-old girl entered and inquired about the get-together. When told the reason for Operation Rescue, she revealed her own pregnancy, her appointment for an abortion and her subsequent decision to choose life for her child.