Operation Rescue insists that God's judgment is the one that matters, but in the here and now, the organization is becoming an almighty headache for courts all over the country.
"They have us litigating on so many fronts it's impossible for us to know where our head is at," said Hillary Weisman, an attorney for New York City, which is trying to collect almost $20,000 awarded by a court to cover the police and other costs it has incurred at the hands of Operation Rescue.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday March 25, 1989 Home Edition Part 1 Page 3 Column 1 National Desk 2 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
Because of an editing error, a March 17 story misidentified a television crew that had interviewed Randall Terry, founder of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue. The crew was from WTVH, the CBS affiliate in Syracuse, N.Y., not from Syracuse University.
One federal judge in New York has grown so exasperated with Operation Rescue's disregard for his orders that he has fined it $50,000, and warned that he will double the fine every time the group violates his injunction against blocking access to clinics.
Further, the court plans to distribute the money to the National Organization for Women and the very abortion clinics that Operation Rescue has attacked. That is, of course, if it ever collects.
"Can you believe your eyes?" Terry wrote in an Operation Rescue newsletter last November. "A federal judge ordered me and Operation Rescue to pay $50,000 to baby-killers and those who support baby-killers! This is beyond outrageous! It would be like asking civil rights leaders to pay money to the KKK! . . . I will not pay money to baby-killers!"
In California, Santa Clara County has declared a state of judicial emergency because of the overload it faces in prosecuting about 500 demonstrators arrested there since October. One proceeding in January ended in mistrial before trial even began, after Operation Rescue attorney Cyrus Zal insisted on describing abortion in the most graphic terms to potential jurors.
"The Holy Spirit guides and directs my whole conduct of the trial," Zal said. "I've been cutting away all the fake words and terms, telling about abortion for what it is."
In its literature, Operation Rescue advises potential demonstrators that the legal penalties are likely to be minor--a reprimand, and no criminal charges on their record. Law enforcement agencies in many cities are doing their best to prove that idea wrong.
"We have dealt with two-thirds of the first 248 and no case has been dismissed," said Rebecca Hayworth, the Santa Clara deputy district attorney.
The stakes for those who join the protests also rose dramatically two weeks ago when a federal appeals court in Philadelphia upheld a ruling that the protesters could be punished under a tough, far-reaching federal racketeering law.
Terry, a defendant in a somewhat similar racketeering lawsuit filed in Chicago by the National Organization for Women, says the decision is "a blatant misuse of the judicial system, and it's deliberately designed to crush this movement."
Chet Gallagher, formerly with the Las Vegas Police Department, is one of the newest rising stars in the rescue movement.
Gallagher, 39, was fired Feb. 13 for disobeying orders while on duty and being arrested himself at an Operation Rescue sit-in. "I have a responsibility as a police officer to save human life," he said. Gallagher, has since appeared at rallies and on Christian radio and television shows.
His ex-wife Diane Foster sees a bitter irony: Gallagher's fame as a hero of the unborn has come at the expense of his own two children. "He was willing to sacrifice his job, and without a job, there's no child support coming in," she said.
Operation Rescue leaders say that such sacrifices are common--necessary, even--as the movement grows.
"People sell their businesses and possessions. You're prepared to lose things you have. It's the nature of the job," said one organizer, who recently moved to Orange County from Atlanta to help with the upcoming Southern California protests.
Terry preaches that "God is love--absolutely--but God is also fire," and unless America repents for abortion, it will suffer his fury. The consequences, Terry warns, could be economic collapse, plague, drought, famine, or even "military intervention from an outside aggressor.
"You can sacrifice now or later," Terry adds. "You'll pay anyway."
"The blood of 25 million children cries from the ground for vengeance. How long can God stand by without judging this country? America will rise or fall on the blood of her children."
Others in the anti-abortion movement have a different view of God.
One recent Sunday at Grace Community Church, an independent fundamentalist church in Sun Valley, Pastor John MacArthur passed out a brochure to at least 7,000 churchgoers.
"In a sinful world, God has sovereignly given human government the authority to keep peace and order, not to institute Christian values," it read. "He will ultimately judge all sinners, including those who murder their children . . .. The church has never been called to prevent sin by force or intrusion, but to proclaim the gospel to sinners."
Thus, Operation Rescue is making abortion a watershed religious quandary.