by Debra Braun [article taken from the January 1989 issue of Pro-Life Action News]
PHOTOS BY CHARLES KEELER
Several hundred pro-lifers participated in the first Operation Rescue-style rescue missions in Minnesota on November 18 and December 19. By peacefully blocking the doors to the Planned Parenthood abortion center in St. Paul, they were able to temporarily close this killing center and turn away several women who were schedule for abortions. On November 18, 129 rescuers were arrested for attempting to save lives and on December 19, 92 people were arrested. About 100 additional pro-lifers participated in each rescue mission as part of the support team, joining the rescuers in prayer and song.
Pro-lifers shut down the Planned Parenthood abortion center for 3 ½ hours on November 18 by peacefully blocking the front and back doors. The date of the rescue mission was announced only to those who attended the training sessions prior to the rescue and thus the pro-lifers were able to catch the abortion enter completely off-guard. By the time the first employee arrived at 8:20 a.m., 129 people were blocking the entrances. No employees or clients were able to enter until the police arrested the last person at 11:30 a.m. Meanwhile, dedicated sidewalk counselors turned four women away from their abortion appointments!
After one of the sidewalk counselors told a client that Planned Parenthood was closed, employees and pro-abortion escorts made signs which stated “Planned Parenthood is Open.” It was evident to everyone on the scene that Planned Parenthood could not possibly be open, with 129 people blocking access and no employees inside. But it was an example of the deception that permeates the pro-abortion establishment.
According to the National Abortion Federation (NAF), it is important that the abortion center try to stay open or at least appear open. In a September 23, 1988 memo, Alice Kirkman, public affairs director of NAF told members, “Each facility needs to make the decision whether and how to stay open during the time that demonstrators are predicted. Because a major goal of many antiabortion demonstrations is to ‘shut down’ abortion clinics, it is highly recommended for deterrence reasons that clinics try to stay open or promulgate the appearance of being open during such antiabortion campaigns.”
As they were blocking the entrances, the rescuers prayed and sang hymns and patriotic songs. At 10:45 when they were asked to leave by police officers, Bro. Michael Gaworski, co-founder of Pro-Life Action Ministries, stated that if Thomas Webber, the executive director of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, would assure the rescuers that the abortion center would not kill any babies that day, they would leave voluntarily. Mr. Webber did not respond and since they knew their presence was preventing babies from being killed, the rescuers refused to leave on their own.
The St. Paul Police Department used about 50 police officers, 2 paddy wagons and 3 city buses to arrest the rescuers and take them to the police station. Initially the rescuers were told that the “first-timers” would be released with a citation if they agreed not to go back to Planned Parenthood that day. They said they could not agree to this and they waited for a guarantee that everyone would be released on personal recognizance. Within two hours they were all released with a citation and told to appear in Ramsey County District Court December 8 for arraignment on trespass charges.
The police officer in charge, Deputy Chief John Sturner, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the rescue cost the city about $8000 and that police officers had to be pulled from other duties to arrest pro-lifers. But the rescuers did not ask to be arrested. They would have been perfectly content to sit in front of the doors all day. They weren’t harming anyone; they were preventing people from being killed.
When they went to court, the charge was reduced from a misdemeanor (maximum sentence–$700 fine and 90 days in jail) to a petty misdemeanor (maximum sentence–$200 fine and no jail time). The rescuers went before Judge James Campbell in groups of seven at a time. The assistant city attorney stated that they were on the property of Planned Parenthood, were asked to leave and refused. Without stating that they were guilty of a crime, the rescuers acknowledged that those facts were correct and then Judge Campbell adjudged each of them guilty and sentenced them to a $100 fine, with a $75 of that amount stayed for one year, or 16 hours of community service. About half of the rescuers decided to do the community service at pro-life organizations or other agencies that help the needy and the others decided to pay the fine.