A federal jury in Dallas on October 25 ordered three pro-life groups and seven individuals to pay $8.6 million to an abortionist.
Operation Rescue National (OR) of Dallas is to pay $1.75 million, and its director, Flip Benham, is to pay $1.2 million for invading the privacy of Norman Tompkins and causing him emotional distress. Two other groups—the now-defunct Dallas Pro-Life Action Network and Missionaries to the Preborn, a Milwaukee organization named only because one of the protesters had participated in Milwaukee protests, too—also were ordered to pay $1.75 million to Tompkins.
Benham says he tried to follow Matthew 18 guidelines in confronting Tompkins and the abortionist's United Methodist minister. Benham says five other Dallas physicians who performed abortions quit when he confronted them because they did not want the public exposure.
In October 1992, or began staging a ten-month picket outside Tompkins's business and home. Tompkins brought his hired body guards and bulletproof vest into court, tactics that helped convince jurors he had been terrorized.
Kelly Shackelford, a Dallas-based attorney for the Rutherford Institute who helped defend the pro-lifers, says all the demonstrations were carried out peacefully on public property.
"The police were constantly there, and no one was ever arrested," Shackelford says. "The case really was an attempt to intimidate people from engaging in free speech."
Benham contends he has no money to pay the damages. or remains in business because its offices and equipment are leased rather than owned.
Tompkins lost so many clients that he moved to Gainesville, 60 miles north of Dallas. Tompkins now advertises that he performs "no abortions" and that he is a "Christian doctor."