Activists who blocked the entrances to area abortion clinics on the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortions say they are carrying on the tradition of the 1960s civil rights movement, but a leader from the era disputes that contention.
Police arrested 153 people Monday in one of the "Operation Rescue" protests outside a clinic in the city. The arrests were a sideshow to the larger event, a peaceful march and demonstration by about 67,000 people at the Supreme Court to mark the 16th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision.The event, called the March for Life, received a boost from President Bush, who told the anti-abortionists by way of a telephone loudspeaker in a park near the White House that the decision "was wrong and should be overturned."
Vice President Quayle also met with Nellie Gray, the leader of the March for Life, and other anti-abortion leaders. "I couldn't think of a more appropriate group to be meeting with," he said.
District of Columbia police on Monday arrested the 153 protesters outside Hillcrest Women's Center in northwest Washington and charged them with blocking access to the building or crossing police lines, said police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile.
Police said doors at the clinic were locked for about two and a half hours because of the protest.
In Glen Burnie, Md., the Gynecare Center closed after about 300 demonstrators gathered at the clinic entrance and refused to move, but no arrests were made, said Sgt. Joe Bisesi of the Anne Arundel County Police.
Both protests were organized by a group in suburban Gaithersburg, Md. known as "Rachel's Rescue," which is part of a national effort by abortion foes to use tactics of the 1960s civil rights movement to stop women from having abortions.
But at a press conference in Washington, civil rights activist Julian Bond read a statement for Planned Parenthood saying the "rescue" operation is wrong in likening itself to the civil rights movement.
He said the civil rights movement was an effort to extend constitutional rights while "today's anti-abortionists, quite to the contrary, are attempting in their Operation Rescue protests to deny American women their constitutional right to freedom of choice."