By DAMON ADAMS, Sun Sentinel Staff Writer
Michele Herzog thinks she stops a murder when she sits in front of an abortion clinic.
Joyce Tarnow, who runs an abortion clinic in Oakland Park, calls demonstrations by Herzog and others harassment and a violation of patients` rights. She has heard screams of “baby killers” and watched anti- abortionists protest outside her clinic for three years.
Abortion clinic operators fear the 20th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade today may mark the beginning of a new wave of human blockades at clinic entrances. After a ruling last week that gives abortion activists more legal protection, clinics are bracing for confrontations, and protesters promise unannounced visits to their doorsteps.
“Women come in and they’re trembling and upset. It makes for a bad situation,” said Tarnow, administrator of the Women’s Clinic in Oakland Park. A protest forced the clinic to close for two hours in February 1989. “If this is how they interpret Christianity, they need to do more studying.”
Operation Rescue and other anti-abortion activist groups protest abortions by physically blocking entrances to clinics through so-called “rescues.” Hundreds of protesters, mostly evangelical Christians, were arrested in such protests in Wichita, Kan., in the summer of 1991. They also have been jailed in South Florida.
Anti-abortion activists claimed victory on Jan. 13 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a federal civil rights law cannot stop abortion protesters from blockading clinics. Now the only legal ways to stop blockades are trespassing and public nuisance lawsuits brought in state courts, but they carry less-severe penalties.
Operation Rescue leaders, who are conducting training sessions in Melbourne on protest tactics, declined to say where they would strike next. Some protests are expected today and this weekend at clinics in Washington, D.C.
South Florida leaders are planning “field trips” for coming weeks in Florida.
“Our goal is to stay the execution and give our sidewalk counselors time to talk to the pregnant women,” said Eric Olson, 25, an Operation Rescue leader in Melbourne who helped block a Coral Springs clinic in 1991. “More people will be apt to join the ranks now that the federal penalty is not hanging over their heads.”
Herzog, of Fort Lauderdale, and fellow anti-abortionists will have a prayer service on Saturday outside Tarnow`s clinic.
The protesters said they were encouraged by the fact that the clinic probably will lose its lease this year — action that they think their demonstrations helped bring about.
Abortion clinics are on alert. Some are hiring more off-duty cops. Others are re-evaluating security. Tarnow has volunteers watching her clinic in Oakland Park.
Despite the measures, abortion rights leaders expect activists to continue militant tactics. Tarnow suspects activists of shooting out her clinic`s windows, putting glue in door locks and scattering nails in the parking lot.
“Some of the things they do are disgusting. There`s not much they won`t do,” said Barbara Radford, executive director of the National Abortion Federation. The organization said anti-abortion activism is rising, from 44 incidents of vandalism at clinics in 1991 to 115 incidents last year.
Anti-abortionists said they do not condone violence, but they do not fear jail time. With a new president in the White House who supports abortion rights, they said they may have little choice but to demonstrate to keep their fight going.