BINGHAMTON, NY (FR) – Over 200 people were arrested in November of 1987 in the nation’s largest “rescue mission” for unborn children, conducted at the Cherry Hill Women’s Center in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The protestors, who flew in from 19 different states at their own expense, came to the clinic to be trained in the civil disobedience tactic of barring pregnant women from abortion facilities in order to save the lives of unborn babies. The protest was organized by Operation Rescue, a pro-life group based in Binghamton, New York.
The 350 protesters were obviously very successful in their efforts, since the Cherry Hill Center did not perform any abortions on Saturday, November 28, the day of the protest. Three other clinics in nearby Philadelphia also closed for the day because the operators knew that the protesters were in the area.
“Operation Rescue” had a secret rally at an undisclosed location on the night prior to the sit-in. Protesters said they did not know where the event would take place until their 5 a.m. meeting in Philadelphia. After the rally, Operation Rescue’s assistant director Gary Leber said the ‘rescuers’ drove across the river to the Cherry Hill facility.
Police began arresting people after 10 a.m., when they were threatened with a lawsuit by an attorney representing the clinic. “It was very peaceful,” however, said Leber, “and police told(the director) that they would have to start arresting people because of the threatened lawsuit.” To prolong the event, the protesters were advised to allow the police to drag them away. The police assured Leber that they would not use force or handcuffs, and they left 40 men behind because they did not want to drag them.
The county jail was overflowing with people, since the police spent almost six hours arresting protesters. About 350 people were sitting in front of the clinic, singing and praying, before the arrests began. One of the policemen took a busload of people to a nearby 7-Eleven store to purchase snacks for the cooperative rescue participants.
Hearings in the case are scheduled for January and February of this year, and those charged with trespassing will face a maximum fine of $500 or six months in jail. So far, protesters have vowed that they will not pay fines.
Leber said that the Cherry Hill protest was the first in a series of national rescues that his organization is planning. “We prefer to use the term ‘rescue’” Leber said, “instead of ‘sit-in’ because we view it as biblical obedience over civil disobedience. We aren’t here to break a law but to obey God.”
The Cherry Hill clinic has an average of 35 abortions a day, but there was no particular reason why it was singled out as the first target of the national rescue effort. “Our rule of thumb in selecting a clinic is to go where the lives of unborn children are threatened.” He also said that Operation Rescue wants to encourage more than letter writing or marching. “If mothers see that Christians are willing to risk arrest for their child,” he said, “they begin to see the value of their baby’s life.”
For more information on Operation Rescue, contact: Operation Rescue, P.O. Box 1180, Binghamton, NY 13902, phone (607) 723-4012.