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Arrests Common for Pro-Life Family

June 2, 1998

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Linda McGlade winced as she saw her 12-year-old son in plastic handcuffs, a police officer leading him from outside an abortion clinic to a waiting van.

It wasn’t easy for a mother to watch, but she had seen it before. Dozens of times.

Her son, Eric, a sixth-grader who wants to be hockey’s next Eric Lindros, has been arrested during abortion clinic demonstrations each year since he was 7 years old. Four of his seven siblings have been arrested dozens of times, too.

``My heart leaps, but I’ve seen God come through. He never lets us down,″ said Mrs. McGlade, 46, an Operation Rescue activist from Bradenton.

Mrs. McGlade, her husband, Tom, and their seven children have criss-crossed the country during the past decade to demonstrate with Operation Rescue in front of abortion clinics.

Social service workers have threatened to take the children away. The parents have been jeered by abortion rights supporters who question why they allow their children to demonstrate at such a young age.

Mrs. McGlade, who is with her family in Orlando for a week of Operation Rescue demonstrations at clinics, Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Walt Disney World, says they’re doing the Lord’s work.

``Some people may object to the way we live but we are following the word of Jesus,″ Mrs. McGlade said.

Her husband said, ``Some people think they’re too young, but they’re not too young.″

The eldest children, Ryan, 20; Keith, 17; Rachel, 14; and Eric have been arrested by police in Milwaukee, Atlanta; Birmingham, Ala.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Chicago; Melbourne, Fla.; and Washington, D.C. The couple won’t let their younger children, Jonathan, 11; Anthony, 9; and Amanda, 6, risk getting arrested until they are older, although the little ones do show up at the demonstrations and want to participate.

``Typically, we have to hold them back,″ Tom McGlade said Tuesday. ``We won’t let them do it unless they know what they’re doing.″

Eric and Keith were arrested Monday outside the EPOC clinic in Orlando for blocking the street by lying down on the ground. They were charged with obstructing a roadway and resisting arrest without violence. Although they were released on their own recognizance, Amanda couldn’t help but worry about her older brothers.

``Will they be gone forever?″ the towheaded, gap-toothed little girl said to her mother.

Their arrests didn’t stop the brothers from showing up outside the Women’s Health Clinic Tuesday with their parents, siblings and about 60 other Operation Rescue protesters. Although the demonstrators and abortion rights supporters tried to out-chant and out-sing each other, there were no arrests.

``It’s our duty to be here,″ said Eric, who is freckled and stands 4-foot-9 inches tall. ``No one else is going to be here, so we have to do it.″

The McGlades said they are very proud of their children and the risks they take. ``You have to be proud of your children when you see them standing up for what is right,″ Mrs. McGlade said.

The children said they have never felt coerced by their parents into doing something they don’t want to do. ``My parents have set a great example for me as a kid,″ Keith said.

In Bradenton, about 35 miles south of Tampa, the children are home-schooled by Mrs. McGlade. Her husband works as a sound and lighting engineer when the family isn’t doing missionary work. A love of hockey is shared by the men in the family. McGlade coaches Keith’s team at the local high school.

When this week’s demonstrations are over in Orlando, the family is thinking about taking a rest.

``We’re going to go home and have a real life for a while,″ Mrs. McGlade said. ``And clean the house.″

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