Over 600 people, about half of them pastors, met in Atlanta last month to learn more about Operation Rescue (OR) and its strategy to prevent abortions. That strategy, in essence, is to block the entrances to abortion clinics.

OR’s founder and national director, Randall Terry, organized the conference to recruit additional volunteers for the activist organization. He got help from several well-known Christian leaders who either addressed the summit or sent messages to those attending.

Television preacher Jerry Falwell endorsed the movement, as he has done before. But according to OR spokesman Mark Lucas, Falwell made no commitment to participate himself, something he has previously hinted at doing.

Moral Majority president Jerry Nims delivered endorsements on behalf of Campus Crusade president Bill Bright, and Crawford Loritts, national director of Here’s Life Black America. Loritts was scheduled to address the summit but could not attend, according to Lucas, because of a schedule conflict. OR has attempted to engage support from black Christians for the rescue movement.

Plan B

Meanwhile, radio and television preacher Charles Stanley has endorsed another strategy intended to stop abortions. The pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta recently hosted a meeting of 125 area pastors and businessmen to launch a fund-raising effort on behalf of the Chattanooga, Tennessee-based American Rights Coalition (ARC). Last year, supporters of OR were disappointed when Stanley publicly distanced himself from their movement because he felt it did not meet biblical criteria for civil disobedience (CT, Nov. 4, 1988, p. 35).

The ARC strategy is to seek out women who have been injured by an abortion and provide them with help, including legal counsel, in hopes they will file malpractice lawsuits against abortion clinic operators. In Atlanta, the group has purchased space on ten area billboards, which now ask: “Having problems from an abortion?” and list ARC’s toll-free number.

ARC president Charles Wysong characterized initial response to the billboards as “overwhelming,” though he declined to give specific figures. He did say that eight of the calls referred to instances of women injured by abortions in 1988. Wysong also noted that two women, one in Atlanta and one in nearby Macon, recently died—shortly after having received abortions. He said that as a result of ARC’s influence, one suit has already been filed in the Macon case and another is likely to be filed on behalf of the Atlanta woman.

Escalating Movement

Despite Stanley’s publicly stated opposition to OR’s tactics, the rescue movement appears to be catching on. Said OR’s Lucas, “It’s growing so rapidly we can’t keep up with the number of rescues taking place.”

OR attempts to monitor the growth of the rescue movement, especially in cases where the leaders of other efforts received training at the organization’s headquarters in Binghamton, New York. Lucas estimated that from May to mid-December of last year, between 5,000 and 6,000 arrests were made of between 3,000 and 4,000 people (some people were arrested more than once).

Lucas said his group is planning for 1,000, but hoping that as many as 3,000 will participate in demonstrations in New York City, January 12–14. A federal judge in New York last year fined Randall Terry and Operation Rescue $50,000 for civil contempt as a result of a suit filed by abortion advocates. “Part of the reason for the New York City rescues,” said Lucas, “is to demonstrate that we won’t be intimidated.”

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