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360 Abortion Protesters Arrested at Capital Clinics

January 22, 1992|ROBERT L. JACKSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Police on Tuesday arrested 360 anti-abortion demonstrators who tried vainly to shut down two abortion clinics during the first of two days of protests planned in the capital by groups on both sides of the abortion issue.

The protesters were led by Randall A. Terry, director of Operation Rescue, a national anti-abortion group whose members said that they were saving babies from death.

The effect of the protest was mainly symbolic. Police prevented the demonstrators from blocking doors of the Washington Surgi-Clinic and another site a few blocks away. Those arrested were given misdemeanor citations for crossing police lines and were released later in the day.

More than 100 abortion rights supporters tried to assist police by locking arms and forming a line around two sides of the Surgi-Clinic. There was no violence.

Terry, who directed blockades of Wichita, Kan., clinics last summer in violation of a federal court order, was not arrested. He said that his group would try today to block one or more additional clinics among the 38 in the Washington area, but he would not identify them.

Operation Rescue members said they were encouraged by the Supreme Court's decision Tuesday to review a Pennsylvania law that restricts a woman's right to have an abortion.

"Roe is going down," Terry told the crowd, referring to the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion.

Rallies by both sides are scheduled in the capital today to mark the 19th anniversary of the Roe decision. The National Right to Life Committee will sponsor its annual March for Life beginning on the Mall and proceeding to the steps of the Supreme Court. President Bush is scheduled to address the group over an amplified telephone hookup at the beginning of the march.

Bush has come out against abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when the woman's life is in danger. He has urged the Supreme Court to overturn the Roe decision.

Wanda Franz, head of the Right to Life Committee, said that the Pennsylvania law "ensures a woman's right to know the facts about the development of unborn children and alternatives to abortion." That law requires a 24-hour waiting period for abortions and parental consent for minors, among other provisions.

The National Abortion Rights Action League plans a rally a block away from the Right to Life group on the Mall. Kate Michelman, executive director of the Abortion Rights Action League, said her members anticipate that the right to have an abortion will run second only to the economy as a decisive issue in this election year.

"With our right to choose on the chopping block, the only road left for the pro-choice majority is the political road," Michelman told reporters. "We must elect a pro-choice President or make progress toward a veto-proof Congress."

Candidates for the Democratic nomination for President including Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, Sens. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and Tom Harkin of Iowa and former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas are expected to attend the abortion rights rally.

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