Hundreds of Anti-Abortion Demonstrators Arrested
Undated (AP) _ Hundreds of anti-abortion protesters were arrested in four states Saturday as they sought to block health clinics, while pro-choice activists carrying signs such as ″Keep Your Laws Off My Body″ countered with their own rallies.
Ninety anti-abortion protesters were carried away on police stretchers in St. Petersburg, Fla., including 23 who chained themselves to the doors of a clinic with special bicycle locks almost impossible to cut with normal tools.
″No children were killed in this building today - we shut down the clinic,″ said the Rev. Christopher Osborne, pastor of River of Life Fellowship and leader of the protest.
Deborah Struthers, head of the All Women’s Health Clinic, said all appointments, including some planned abortions, had been postponed or diverted to other facilities.
Frustrated authorities had to call the group’s local attorney to negotiate the chained protesters’ surrender, said police spokesman Wendall Creager. A member of the group finally provided keys to the locks, and the demonstrators were removed and booked on charges of trespassing and resisting without violence, police said.
The protesters were met at the clinic by about 20 counter-demonstrators.
″This issue is not only about abortion, but a woman’s right to health care,″ said Linda Osten, president of the Upper Pinellas National Organization For Women. ″These people brought their lies and propaganda here today, but the majority of Americans know women need choices.″
Chicago police carried away dozens of anti-abortion protesters by their arms and legs outside a North Side clinic. Seventy-three people will be charged with mob action and disorderly conduct, police Sgt. James Larner said.
About 2,000 abortion rights demonstrators held a rally at the Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago.
Signs in the crowd of mostly women read: ″Keep Your Laws Off My Body,″ ″Keep Abortions Legal,″ and ″The Choice is Mine.″
At one point, about 250 anti-abortion demonstrators showed up at the plaza carrying red traffic stop signs that read, ″Stop Abortion Now.″
A double police barricade kept the two sides apart, but they chanted back and forth at each other, ″Choice, choice, choice,″ and ″Roe V. Wade Has Got to Go.″
Numerous abortion protests, both pro and con, have occurred around the nation since the U.S. Supreme Court began considering a case which could reverse the Roe vs. Wade decision of 1973. The ruling made abortion legal in the early stages of pregnancy.
In West Hartford, Conn., about 100 anti-abortion protesters occupied the Summit Women’s Center, jamming elevators and an operating room and halting clinic operations while as many as 300 people sang and demonstrated outside. Some carried a banner that read, ″Killing Factory Closed.″
Police arrested 261 protesters and took them by city bus to the police station, said officer Douglas R. Ahlstrin. Some struggled and shouted out Biblical passages as they were dragged to the buses.
On the other side of the street, about 100 pro-choice demonstrators carried signs saying, ″Stand Up For Choice″ and ″Defend Abortion Rights″ and chanted ″Not the Church, Not the State, Women Will Decide Our Fate.″
″I think this boils down to that it’s a woman’s right and keep the government out of it,″ said Laura D. Verbarg, who said she was driving past the demonstration when she decided to join the pro-choice advocates.
In Dallas, about 250 people demonstrated and 44 were arrested during a demonstration at Routh Street Women’s Clinic, said a police spokeswoman who refused to give her name.
The protest, organized by the anti-abortion group Dallas Rescue, was dubbed ″Father’s Day Rescue, said Laura Weston, a spokeswoman for the group.
″The father is supposed to protect his wife, the mother, and his children,″ Ms. Weston said.