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Antiabortion Group Will Target High Schools

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The antiabortion group Operation Rescue will demonstrate in front of high schools throughout the nation next week, including some in Orange and Los Angeles counties, organization leaders said Wednesday.

While they would not disclose when or where the demonstrations would occur, a local antiabortion activist said Laguna Beach High School will be among those targeted.

“We’re bringing the truth of abortion back into the public schools,” said Troy Newman, a coordinator at Operation Rescue’s western regional headquarters in Las Vegas. “We will have a very large kickoff event on Tuesday and Wednesday in Orange County.”

Demonstrators will carry 6-foot-tall signs depicting aborted babies and distribute literature to students as they arrive or leave the campuses, said Peter French, an Operation Rescue leader.

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Barbara Norton, president of the Laguna Beach Unified School District’s Parent Teacher Assn. Council, said Wednesday that local parents are upset their children will be exposed to “this disturbing material.”

“People are extremely bothered by this group coming into town, although it’s their right,” Norton said. “If they’re going to be marching on the sidewalk, these kids don’t have a choice whether to look at this material or not. . . . They have to go to school.”

Laguna Beach school officials said they were still trying to confirm that the demonstration would actually happen here.

“It’s speculative at this point,” acting Supt. Cheryl Baughn said. “Our job is to educate our students and to do that in a safe environment. That’s what we do every day and that’s what we’ll do should this demonstration occur.”

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Laguna Beach Police Chief Neil Purcell said demonstrators can rally so long as they don’t violate school policies or block entrances to the campus. “They can certainly have a peaceful demonstration without interference from us,” he said.

French, who ran for the Laguna Beach City Council in 1992, said the group decided last year to begin focusing on schools.

“It is in the high schools, the public schools themselves, where . . . the lies begin that this is just a cluster of cells, a product of pregnancy,” French said. “What we do is show pictures of what an abortion actually is. We let the chips fall where they may at that point.”

Sometimes, when antiabortion demonstrators are in front of high schools, students who are pregnant confide in them, he said.

“We’re prepared to minister to the gals immediately on the street,” French said. “If they need it, we’ll even give them a ride to a crisis pregnancy center.”

Debra St. Lawrence-Sussman, a spokeswoman for the National Organization for Women’s South Orange County chapter, called the planned demonstrations “appalling.”

“They’re pretty young to be looking at these graphic scenes,” she said. Operation Rescue is “resorting to desperate tactics to impose their morality on innocent, young minors. The Laguna Beach parents are outraged.”

French said the Orange County schools were selected randomly and that demonstrations will continue until the end of the school year.

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“Our goal is to reach as many high schools across the nation as we can,” he said. “We’re coming to a high school near you.”


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