A Los Angeles federal judge Thursday forbade anti-abortion forces from blockading entrances to California women's health clinics--including more than 90 in the Southland--that are targeted for a major demonstration later this month.
U.S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr. granted the American Civil Liberties Union's request for a temporary restraining order to keep protesters from bodily blocking entrances and demonstrating closer than 15 feet from clinic entrances and exits.
Those techniques have been used nationwide by Operation Rescue during anti-abortion protests.
"No judge has the right to order the killing of children. . . ," Joseph Foreman, an Operation Rescue organizer, said afterward. "That order says it's right to protect baby killers."
Foreman, whose attorney was not present, told the judge that his group's actions were like the civil disobedience of Martin Luther King Jr. and Susan B. Anthony.
But Hatter responded, "In a nation such as ours, if you want to violate the law, you must suffer the consequences."
Foreman would not say specifically that the anti-abortion group plans to ignore the order, but other Operation Rescue officials said earlier this week that they would--as they have in several other cities.
More than 7,000 members have been arrested in the last year during demonstrations in which some protesters chained themselves and large objects, including cars, to the doors of abortion clinics.
Operation Rescue spokeswoman Barbara Magera said earlier in the week that a court order "is not going to affect our plans at all. We are called to rescue children from death regardless of injunction or no injunction.
"We are prepared to go to jail if necessary," she added. "The pro-death people are trying to intimidate us through civil lawsuits . . . but it won't stop a nationwide upheaval to end the legalized child killing in our nation." Rescue members, who are working with a coalition of Southern California pastors, have been recruiting demonstrators in Southern California for a "Holy Week of Rescue" siege on the clinics March 22 through 25.
The group, a loose coalition made up mostly of Protestant fundamentalists and factions of the Roman Catholic Church, was founded a year ago by Randall Terry, a 29-year-old former automobile salesman from New York.
Hearing March 13
A hearing on whether a permanent injunction should be ordered was set for March 13.
The organization plans to conduct "sidewalk counseling" of patients entering clinics on Saturday. ACLU attorney Carol Sobel called this "harassment."
In a trial run for the March demonstrations, 500 Operation Rescue members on Feb. 11 barred entrances to two Westside clinics and closed them down despite counter-demonstrations by pro-choice groups.
Sobel said Los Angeles police failed to arrest anyone at the Feb. 11 demonstration--even though demonstrators were on private property. She said the effectiveness of Hatter's order will depend upon enforcement by police.
Police said they did not make any arrests in that instance because clinic owners did not want to press charges.
Controversy Heats Up
The abortion controversy has heated up nationwide since the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will reconsider the extent to which states may restrict a woman's right to an abortion. The landmark 1973 Roe Vs. Wade decision legalized abortion without restrictions for all women during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Groups that asked for the restraining order include Planned Parenthood; National Abortion Federation; Family Planning Associates Medical Group; Pico Women's Medical Group; Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers; California Chapter of the National Organization for Women and several other clinics and women who say they were denied access to clinics during the February protest.