A Firsthand Account of a “Rescue”

In the late 1980s and 1990s, large groups of pro-lifers led by pro-life activist Randall Terry and others staged rescues in which they blocked abortion clinics in massive numbers. Demonized by the media and criticized by many, these demonstrations were mostly peaceful.

Here is an account of one demonstration by an observer. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former abortionist, observed a sit in. In his book, The Hand of God he describes how the peacefulness that pro-lifers showed made him reconsider whether or not there was a God:

“The morning of the Rescue was bitterly cold. I joined the legion, approximately 1200 demonstrators, at their rendezvous in the West 40s in Manhattan and proceeded with them by subway and foot to the clinic on second Avenue and 21st Street. They sat themselves down in rows in front of the clinic, effectively blocking entrances to and exit from the abortion clinic. They began to sing hymns softly, joining hands and swaying from the waist. I circulated on the periphery at first, observing the faces, interviewing some of the participants, making notes furiously. It was only then that I apprehended the exultation, the pure love on the faces of that shivering mass of people, surrounded as they were by hundreds of New York City policeman.

They prayed, they supported and encouraged each other, they sang hymns of joy, and they constantly reminded each other of the absolute prohibition against violence. It was, I suppose, the sheer intensity of the love and prayer that astonished me…The only brutality I personally witnessed at the California rally was committed by female police officers, who seemed personally offended by the demonstrators….I saw the Spirit put to the test on those bitterly cold demonstration mornings, with pro-choicers hurling the most fulsome epitaphs at them, the police surrounding them, the media openly unsympathetic to their cause, the federal judiciary fining and jailing them and municipal officials threatening them – walked through it they sat smiling, quietly praying, singing, confident of the righteous of their cause…”

Nathanson, Bernard N, M.D The Hand of God: a Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind (Washington DC: Regnery Publishing Inc, 1996) pgs 192-199.

Contrast this with the tone of the pro-choice March for Women’s Lives on Washington DC- read article here.

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