Undated (AP) _ Thousands of people protesting abortion marched Saturday in peaceful rallies outside hospitals across the country, with one minister calling for ''a prayer army'' to join the battle against legalized abortion.

The Christian Action Council planned the protests for 300 cities in an effort to force hospitals to stop performing abortions, said Curtis J. Young, executive director of the council.

''Hospitals are associated with giving life,'' said Karen McGee, who organized a protest in Jackson, Mich. ''But when hospitals perform abortions, it's certainly a paradox.''

In Santa Monica, Calif., about 100 protesters displayed three fetuses, one 24 weeks old, and carried signs calling abortion ''the ultimate child abuse.''

An estimated 12,000 people marched in Baton Rouge, La., said the Rev. Larry Stockstill, one of the 45 clergy who organized rallies in Louisiana.

The Louisiana protesters, many with children in strollers, followed a hearse bearing a casket that organizers said represented an unborn child.

Stockstill urged the protesters to become ''a prayer army'' in the fight against abortion.

Dr. Mildred Faye Jefferson, associate clinical professor of surgery at Boston University's school of medicine, told the protest that ''more than 13 million unborn children have lost their lives'' since the Supreme Court's 1973 decision legalizing abortion.

''Neither this nation nor any other nation on earth can afford that kind of loss,'' she said.

Baton Rouge police escorted about 50 people - mostly members of the National Organization for Women - who were advocating women's right to legal abortions.

Mary Russ, president of the Louisiana NOW chapter, said the protest was ''to represent what is the majority of this country.''

More than 1,300 people carrying banners, signs and tiny coffins, marched in six Washington cities.

''We'll vote people into office and we'll vote them out,'' said the Rev. Harley Allen, pastor of the Spokane, Wash., First Assembly of God church. ''We'll stop being observers and become participants.''

Rallies also were held in Michigan, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, California, Tennessee, Georgia and Connecticut.

In Santa Monica, protest organizer Virginia Brownson would not say where she obtained the fetuses and said she was unsure whether they had been aborted or miscarried.

Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center issued a statement, which said: ''While Santa Monica Hospital Medical Center recognizes others' rights to dissent and to speak freely, we ask that they recognize the hospital's rights to offer needed medical services, and our patients' rights to receive this care.''

Other hospitals targeted for the protests issued similar statements.

Lou Walls, a spokesman for Fairfax, Va., Hospital, said: ''We don't call them abortions. We call them terminations. We perform a limited number of terminations. And that's all in the nature of the fact that we're the largest birth center in the metro area, third on Eastern Seaboard, and eighth in the country.''

In Connecticut, several hundred people marched in several communities, and about 600 people marched in Nashville, Tenn., before holding a 45-minute silent vigil. About 300 people protested in Miami.

Organizers said about 20 people protested for about two hours outside Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and 40 people demonstrated outside Northside Hospital in suburban Atlanta.

Young, of the Christian Action Council, said earlier that ministers planned to make the protests an annual event on the first Saturday of October.

''You can expect that this will be the first of many protests of this magnitude,'' he said. ''In fact, we expect that in the future they will be larger.''