What would prompt a seemingly sensible 65-year-old woman to abandon her job, spend a night sleeping on a New York store-front floor and then take a bus to Atlanta, only to be arrested for sitting on the ground in front of an abortion mill? When the Opinion editor of the News-Times in my home town asked me to explain why I did the things I did that day, and subsequently, in their Community Forum, I was happy to oblige.

COMMUNITY FORUM

News-Times, Danbury CT

July 28, 1991

On September 28, 1990, in Dobbs Ferry, NY, I had the privilege of being handcuffed to a chain link fence behind an abortion clinic next to a Maryknoll priest whom I knew only as Father Andrew.

The occasion was Father Andrew’s first rescue and 38 of us had been arrested for sitting in front of the door of the Women’s Medical Pavilion, refusing to move. Father Andrew told me at the time that he had prayed about it and felt he was obeying God in trying to prevent, at least for a day, the killing of unborn children at that facility. I remember putting my free hand over his in appreciation of his caring enough to be there, Roman collar and all, lending a certain quiet respectability to our efforts.

Father Andrew subsequently spent more than four months in solitary confinement at a Valhalla prison for his “crime.” We rescuers refused to recognize the authority of the system to arrest us for trying to save lives, citing the priority of God’s law (thou shalt not kill), and the finding at Nuremberg that abortion was a crime against humanity. We would not cooperate with fingerprinting or give our real names and were, therefore, put into disciplinary lockup for 22 hours a day. If the authorities would not deal with the bodies of unseen slaughtered babies, they would have to deal with the bodies of passive, defenseless rescuers to remind them that something terribly wrong was going on in society. Eventually we were all released, time served, still anonymous. I served 23 days.

I saw Father Andrew again this June in court at Dobbs Ferry. He had rescued at the same clinic over and over again. His lawyer said he had been practicing law for 34 years and never imagined that one day he would be defending “one of God’s elect” for the crime of trying to save lives. This time Father Andrew gave his real name, got 10 days and a stay-away order. He has an assignment from Maryknoll to go to Mexico. We, and the babies, will miss him hereabouts.

Some, like Father Andrew, jump right into heavy-duty jail time feet first. Others, like myself, of good chicken stock, have been led slowly and gently into doing time for the sake of the babies. I recall a pre-rescue rally which I attended with Dolores Teleski of New Milford. Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, told us that “courage is not the absence of fear but doing what is right in spite of your fear.”

He then asked how many of us would be willing to spend a night in jail so that we would have more leverage in negotiating with the police. A smattering of hands went up, Dolores’ among them. I considered the fact that if she went to jail I would have no one to go home with. Slowly my hand inched up, to half-staff, at best. Thus, reluctantly, are pro-life activists born.

When Dolores and I took a bus down to Atlanta in July 1988 during the Democratic convention, abortion was not as much of a political issue as it is today. To highlight the atrocity of abortion, the daily death of 4000 nameless humans in our country, 134 of us rescued at the Atlanta SurgiCenter and, for the first time, refused to give our names, identifying with the babies and calling ourselves Baby Jane or Baby John Doe.

Several days later arrangements had been made for us to be released, time served, when an Atlanta attorney, Margie Pitt Hames, got into the act. Hames was a pro-abortion attorney who had figured in the Supreme Court’s Doe vs. Bolton decision, companion to Roe vs. Wade, which legalized abortion for the entire nine months of pregnancy, giving us the most permissive abortion law of any nation. She insisted we were not to be released until we gave our names. Although I left after two weeks because I had a job and some claustrophobia, some of those original Baby Does were held as long as five months.

This galvanized the rescue movement and rescue after rescue took place all that summer in Atlanta, all of them Baby Does, receiving nationwide publicity. Hames’ interference backfired and abortion has been on the front burner ever since.

I knew ahead of time that the rescue in West Hartford on June 17, l989, could be a rough one, as I had been present in prayer support at the April Fool’s rescue at the Summit Women’s Center in West Hartford earlier that year. I had seen grown men cry out in pain as the West Hartford police undertook to punish them as they arrested them. It was evident that they had similar orders again on that June 17 as badgeless police officers brutalized 256 passive men and women while removing them from the premises.

We were left in too tight cuffs for hours after we were in custody, were left 24 hours without food, and had no access to counsel for two days. The police also took our shoes and our eyeglasses, which we did not get back while in jail. I went to court in my stocking feet but later another inmate stepped out of her shoes and gave them to me, saying she was about to be released. I wear them still.

On the bus on the way to the Niantic Correctional Institution, a corrections official said, in effect: “Some of you have been hurt. I can assure you that you will not be hurt at Niantic. Our job is to keep you safe until your trial.”

On the whole, in the history of the rescue movement, far more mistreatment has occurred at the hands of police than at the hands of prison personnel. Most officers, however, have been professional and some even kind. I recall one officer who said to me, “Please, ma’am, don’t make me drag you.” When I remained limp, two offers carried me and I never touched the ground. Their kindness made me cry, the only time I cried during a rescue. At the same rescue I saw a police officer cry when she was shown “Baby Choice,” a second-trimester baby killed by saline abortion and displayed in a box.

In jail, we are often referred to as “the protesters,”but our aim is not just to protest but to actually save lives. In the three years of rescue since May 1988, there have been 634 babies confirmed saved at a cost of 43,172 arrests. These are women who were scheduled for abortions that particular day but are known to have chosen life for their babies. Unknown numbers have perhaps not aborted when they saw the crowds in front of the clinics, or when they saw what lengths people were willing to go to stop the killing. Rescuers sign a pledge to be non-violent and I am immensely proud that no rescuer has ever been found guilty of any violent act against another person.

We rescue because we cannot sit at home while we know when and where our unborn brothers and sisters are scheduled to die. We rescue because we are moving toward a death-oriented society, becoming a people who kill their own offspring, one every 20 seconds in these United States, unrepeatable children made in the image of God.

Abortion weakens the taboo against hurting the helpless and devalues life. If there is no inalienable right to life, there is no right to life at all. We see, even now, defective newborns being left to die, suicide being presented to our children as a reasonable option, and our aged and disabled being presented not only with a right to die but a duty to die so as not to be burdensome. It is said they lack “quality of life.” Killing has replaced caring. Shades of Nazi Germany!

Scripture says, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death…if you say, behold, we did not know this, does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?” We cannot say we do not know. A friend once visited Martin Luther King in jail during another civil rights struggle. “Martin,” he said, “Why are you in jail?: King could only reply, “Why are you not in jail?”

An unjust law is no law at all. St. Augustine