May/June, 1997 Volume XII Number 6 - IN THE NATION

National event confronts high school students with abortion

Beverly Hills, CA -- Jeff White says they are taking their message "back to school." Thus the name of the Operation Rescue inspired "Back to School" campaign. On March 3, dozens of communities across the nation were surprised to find local pro-life activists in front of high schools with huge photos of dead babies and pro-life literature. The campaign is scheduled to continue through the end of the school year.
William Cotter, a president of a Massachustts Operation Rescue chapter, said, "The idea is to bring the pro-life message to high school students who are being bombarded with the opposite message, through schools and the media industry."
From a month before the starting date of the campaign, the media was wildly trying to pump Operation Rescue and other pro-life groups for information. Some had seen a letter sent by Flip Benham, director of Operation Rescue/National (ORN) and began calling around.
"We got several calls in Portland, Oregon," said a volunteer at Advocates for Life Ministries. "At the time, we didn't know anything about it. In the end, the local contingent of Rock for Life took up the challenge."
Representatives of the alleged supporters of free speech, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), were running calls on the Internet to recruit people to disrupt the events.
"Inside these buildings, they're being taught sex education, but they're not really being told the whole story about abortion," said Jeff White, of Operation Rescue/California (ORC), as members of his organization protested outside Beverly Hills High School.
And as protesters gathered at New Jersey's North Bergen High School, Bill Kohler of Operation Rescue-New Jersey said, "We want to try and reach them before they become sexually active."
Only a handful of protesters gathered outside the New Jersey school, but they got the students' attention, holding aloft huge, graphic pictures of aborted babies and handling pamphlets to students as they got off the buses.
"We have tried the school boards,'' said Benham. "We have tried the courts. We have tried the legislators, and now we are going to the schools to take them back and bring them home.''
Students had strong reactions to the pictures.
"I think it's just sick to see something like that,'' said Angie Grant, a ninth-grader at Abraham Lincoln High School in Denver. "Seeing what those mothers are doing to their babies, it's just not something I would do.''
Occasionally a shouting match would break out, but reports say that most of the time the students would ask questions and listen to the answers given by pro-lifers.
Sometimes discussion would be conducted between pro-life and pro-abortion students themselves. And talk about it they did.
Back at North Bend High, students leaving school stood in the snow to argue over both the message and the messenger. One student thought the protesters were ineffectual, at best: "These pictures aren't going to change somebody's mind. They're just going to disgust someone," he said.
"You don't believe in abortion?" one of his friends shot back.
"Yeah, I do believe in abortion, it's a woman's right for abortion," he responded.
"But now, now, what if it was your son?" his friend asked.
In a group of high school girls, one girl was heatedly telling her companions, "Abortion is somebody's right. If they wants to have an abortion that is their right."
"If I shoot you, is that my right to shoot you?" one of her friends asked. "Then how are you going to kill that baby?"
Others among the students thought the protests should simply not be held at the school, where they would "disrupt." One report in Portland, Oregon said that counseling was provided to several students after they saw the pictures and read the literature.
The worst examples often came from parents or teachers who shouted strings of obscenities at the pro-lifers, but would not engage in any discussion or debate.
The school protest is a new tactic for Operation Rescue, though the use of the large pictures has become a regular feature of ORC demonstrations.
By turning attention to high schools, the group targets a population responsible for about 20 percent of the abortions in the United States -- young women, ages 15 to 19.
Planned Parenthood, which Operation Rescue has continuously targeted, is in favor of abortion talk among students. But the head of Planned Parenthood in New York said he opposes Operation Rescue's new strategy.
"I think high school students should be debating this, and should be well informed," said Alexander Sanger, the president of Planned Parenthood of New York. "What I'm not in favor of is propaganda in front of high schools."
Operation Rescue makes the claim that events like this provide education on a subject kids aren't learning about elsewhere.
"We're going back to the schools and we're not going to try to be fair and open-minded with the lies of the enemies," said Benham.
The fruit of the protests was evident in one media report from Southern California in which one student, Desiree Serra, 17, said, "I definitely changed my mind. If I got pregnant, I don't think I could have an abortion now. There's always an alternative."
Protests were also reported at schools in the Southern California communities of Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, as well as Cleveland, Portland, Oregon, Spokane, Washington, and Dallas. Protests were conducted in about 100 cities.

Copyright © 1997 AFLM