By Editorial Staff of The Forerunner
Published March 1, 1989
Portland, Oregon (FR) – Dawn Stover is a homemaker who gained a reputation among local abortionists in Portland, Oregon. For four to five years she spent her afternoons on the sidewalk in front of Dr. Peter Bors’ clinic, counseling women against abortion. One day, Dr. Bors showed Mrs. Stover that he had enough: he took a baseball bat and beat her below her knees while she was participating in a non-violent rescue in front of his clinic.
“She got a bruise the size of a baseball,” said Judy Hager, another participant at the rescue, “and she had to be brought into emergency for treatment.” Stover was unavailable for comment because she was in jail. She decided not to press charges when interrogated by the police. Instead, she told them, “If I don’t sue him or press charges or retaliate, he may come to the Lord Jesus that much sooner.”
“Dawn is a very loving person,” Hager said. “We love these abortionists, and we beg them to change their clinics into prenatal care centers.” Eighty people were arrested at the Portland rescue, which took place on February 7, 1989; 50 of those arrested were first-timers. Prior to arrests, police told the participants that they weren’t going to arrest anyone, but that they were going to “hurt them.”
Stover has been involved in Operation Rescue – a grassroots pro-life organization which encourages non-violent sit-ins at abortion clinics – since its inception in 1987. She is one of 18,000 rescuers who have been arrested so far in a movement which is growing every week in both participation levels and results. So far, many clinics across the nation have been temporarily shut down, and 209 babies have been spared. Despite brutal police treatment, angry reactions from agitated clinic owners, and million dollar lawsuits, Operation Rescue is attracting a larger national following, and forcing pro-abortionists to file lawsuits due to loss of business.
Victory in Manhattan’s Lower East Side
The largest rescue to date took place in New York City in January, where seven children were saved by over 1,000 rescuers. Participants traveled from over 40 states to protest in front of clinics in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. OR leaders say the New York City rescue was “the single greatest victory-to-date for the Rescue movement.”
On the first day of the massive two-day event, 275 were arrested. The majority would not give police their real names, but instead chose to name themselves “Baby Jane Doe” and “Baby John Doe” with the U.S. Supreme Court building as their address. On the second day, 815 people were arrested. Several groups surprised police officials by locking themselves together with kryptonite locks, considered the most difficult to break, at a clinic on Broadway. A special police squad spent five hours removing the rescuers and the locks from the building.
Although the rescue was considered a major success, Randall Terry, OR’s founder, is now battling a court decision by a federal judge which requires him to pay $50,000 to the National Organization of Women – to be used by abortion clinics. Said Terry in response: “A federal judge ordered me and Operation Rescue to pay $50,000 to baby-killers, and those who support baby-killers. This is beyond outrageous. It would be like asking civil rights leaders to pay money to the K.K.K.!”
Tough Legal Actions Against Rescuers
Pro-abortion activists, in their efforts to stop Operation Rescue, have been attempting to use the “Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organization” (RICO) statute recently enacted by Congress to convict organized crime figures. The statute was used to convict rescuers in Pittsburgh who protested in front of an office building which housed an abortion clinic. The landowner filed a RICO suit with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals against OR and won. “This is a great threat to our civil liberties and is being applied contrary to its intent,” said William Bonner, counsel for OR and president of the Rutherford Institute.
The Northeast Women’s Center vs. McNomanigle case was the first time RICO was successfully used against the rescue movement. However, OR is planning to challenge the ruling at the Supreme Court level. “This means that the ruling can be used against any social protest group. It will not stop the Operation Rescue movement, though,” added Bonner.
Rescuers in Oregon are also battling a RICO lawsuit asking for $7 million damages each from Dawn Stover, Judy Hager, and one other rescue participant. The Downtown Women’s Clinic in Portland, which has 4,000 to 5,000 patients annually – with 80 percent of their business in abortions – filed the lawsuit. “The abortionist said that the rescuers are damaging her business and that we’re keeping women from their appointments,” said Hager.
A RICO lawsuit is also being fought in Chicago. If the Pittsburgh ruling is affirmed at the Supreme Court level, civil rights protests would become open territory for similar lawsuits. Bonner said the statute doesn’t concern freedom of speech, but violation of another’s rights during exercise of the freedom of speech.
Brutality in the Name of Pro-Choice
Beside fighting courtroom battles, pro-abortion activists and clinic owners are demonstrating their anger in other ways. In Wichita, Kansas, a late-term abortionist, Dr. George Tiller, ran over a women’s leg with his car during a rescue in front of his clinic. He also hit a policeman’s motorcycle and ran into another car. His assistant then threw water on the rescuers. Dr. Tiller was charged with a felony for criminal assault.
At a Pennsylvania rescue, at least 30 women were stripped naked and forced to walk into Allegheny County Prison in front of male inmates. After being arrested on March 11, 1989, at the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center, they were dragged up five flights of stairs. “The guards grabbed the women by their bras and dragged them up the stairs until their bras broke and their shirts were pulled off,” said Barbara Page, spokeswoman for Operation Rescue in Pittsburgh.
Attorney Debbie Lesko is representing the women, and Page said that she hoped that only 30 had gone through the brutal treatment. “Initially they didn’t want to say anything because they agreed in jail not to draw attention from the babies saved,” she explained, “but we had to do something.” Lesko is gathering testimonies and developing the case. “We don’t know what kind of lawsuit we’re going to file,” said Page, “and the district attorney asked the women to file individual complaints instead of a lawsuit.”
According to the county warden, the women went through two strip searches. However, rescue participants are saying it was more. Their clothes were returned after the searches, but several women had to go into emergency for medical treatment. The women were arrested on March 11, and released March 13, in the morning. One woman with asthma problems was denied medical treatment by the prison warden. The medics were ordered not to give treatment until the woman had given her name; they violated the order when she went into cardiac arrest. A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Prison Society said the stripping and denial of medical treatment is commonplace at Allegheny County Prison.
Surprisingly the Pittsburgh media has not touched the issue of police brutality. “I distributed press releases to 750 media outlets, and I haven’t gotten one call,” Page explained. “I thought they would get into this kind of story, but they aren’t doing anything.” Page was served a notice from Allegheny prison officials asking her to retract her statement about prison conditions. “They said if I didn’t retract that I was going to sued for libel and slander,” she said. “So much for free speech.”
In late February, Pittsburgh police also assaulted a man and six people. The six people were taken into emergency for treatment. “The police were dropping people with little remorse. They didn’t seem concerned about people, they were dragging them by the feet and dropping them,” said Page, a witness. Her husband, Chuck was assaulted by police. “They grabbed my ear to pull me up and got a piece of flesh and I slipped back,” he explained. “I put my knees up because I’m so tall, and the officer stepped on my face. I wear glasses and my glasses went flying. I got billy clubbed on my right knee. He stood on my chest and knocked the wind out of me.”
Page was then handcuffed and dragged down the bannister of six flights of stairs. “I charged the officer with assault, but during our hearing he said I pushed him. In the officer’s written report, he said I kicked him. My chest was sore for three days.” Not all policemen have been brutal, however. Some have even refused to arrest the rescuers and others have walked off the job. Chet Gallagher, an officer on duty at a rescue site in Las Vegas, Nevada, actually turned in his badge and joined the rescuers.
“I have the sworn responsibility to protect human life,” explained Gallagher. “It alone is the highest call and most important duty of every commissioned peace officer. The protecting of human life is the priority that must be considered over less significant property and personal rights of others. Therefore I exercised my discretion as a commissioned law enforcement officer, choosing not to arrest these rescuers but standing with them in their attempt to prevent certain death to unborn children.”
Joe Daniels, another police officer in Jackson, Mississippi, also quit two days after arresting rescuers. “I came to the realization that what is lawful is not necessarily good and righteous,” he said. A 10-year police veteran, Daniels turned in his letter of resignation after arresting a woman and a couple with a small child. On the way to the police station, he said the people he’d arrested told him he was allowing abortions to be committed because he had removed them. They began praying aloud for him. As they prayed for him, he realized that he had compromised his Christian beliefs.
“I argued with myself that I’ve always taken pleasure in arresting the bad guys. I prided myself in my ability to bring the scales of justice to balance,” he said. “But in this case, I have confused the good guys with the bad guys. And I have made a grievous error,” he told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Daniels and his family have since moved to another town.
Abortion was the major issue in the last presidential election. Now it is haunting law enforcement officials, attorneys, and abortionists, and will soon be returning to the Supreme Court for another review. With crowds of people lying, sitting, and chanting in front of abortion clinics all over the U.S., and record numbers of rescues scheduled for 1989, it appears that America is on a collision course with Roe Vs. Wade and the havoc it has produced since 1973. If you would like more information about Operation Rescue, write:
P.O. Box 1180
Binghamton, New York 13901
This article originally appeared in Forerunner.com. Published with permission.