Activists Arrested in KY for Blockading Abortion Clinic Doors
The eleven demonstrators were carrying out what has become commonly known in the anti-abortion movement as a “rescue”, wherein the rescuers lock arms in front of the clinic entrances in order to prevent women from entering. The tactic was abandoned in the 90s after passage of the FACE act and successful RICO lawsuits, which imposed harsh penalties including one year in prison and $100,000 fines for first time offenders.
EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, Kentucky has been the focus of controversy and attention, as Governor Matt Bevin and Pro-life leaders have been actively trying to shut down the facility due to its failure to meet state regulations. The last stand-alone surgical abortion facility in the state, EMW is on indefinite life support via court rulings. Rescue organizer Rusty Thomas and others are calling on Bevin to the ignore rulings, which they point out are unlawful, immoral and tyrannical, and shut the clinic down.
Much debate has taken place between anti-abortion groups about whether the revival of the rescue movement’s strategy is effective or useful. Some have argued that civil disobedience is sin and that Christians must obey the law of the land.
“Sometimes Christians must break the law in order to truly love their neighbor. Weren’t those who smuggled slaves to freedom breaking the law? Weren’t those who hid Jews from their Nazi persecutors breaking the law?” asked Elizabeth Johnston, in her blog The Activist Mommy.
Abolitionists have been some of the harshest critics of Saturday’s rescue attempt. While many abolitionists agree with Johnston that one must obey God’s law rather than man’s, they still argue that the time for this particular type of civil disobedience has not yet come and that these actions have the potential to be counter productive, while not saving immediate lives. They see Saturday’s rescue as an attempt to revive a tactic retired a decade ago – one they see as unfruitful at best, and both harmful to the participants and the cause as a whole at worst, and are making the charge that one door, of one clinic, on one morning was briefly blocked, and meanwhile at least 16 abortion minded mothers simply used the backdoor. Calling it a form of “halfway and small scale rescuing”, they say it is easily circumvented by a phone call to reschedule the appointment. “The baby is initially scheduled to die on a Friday, but now the Image Bearer of God will die on a Monday. This morning, however, it was circumvented by walking, perhaps, a little further around the building.” said one abolitionist in an online discussion. “Everything that looks like interposition is not interposition.”
The organizers of the rescue adamantly deny the charge that they are attempting to revive the rescue movement of the 80’s and 90’s. To them, the main purpose was to spur the governor to do the right thing and to show themselves willing to sacrifice to support him. “Our righteous purpose is to call the Church to interpose by laying down her life to save the preborn.” Operation Save America Director and event organizer Rusty Thomas said. Thomas, who was one of those arrested, went on to explain, “We also call upon the civil magistrates in Kentucky to interpose by defending the lives of the preborn by ignoring the lawless ruling of Roe vs. Wade, establish justice, and abolish abortion now!”
According to a video produced by abolitionist T. Russell Hunter, who has been active with Operation Save America in the past, the need of the hour is getting Christians to acknowledge their guilt before God in neglecting justice and mercy, so that the church can interpose as a unified body. You cannot move on to a reformation of practical Christianity that yields a marked effect on the culture at large, political revolution, cultural renewal, without the Lord first giving the wholesale repentance and involvement of the body and bride of Christ.
Pastor and Apologia Radio host Jeff Durbin, who is no stranger to abortion mill ministry, was quick to respond, saying “It’s important to stress that there are absolutely times, places, and circumstances in which civil disobedience is a godly course of action.” He was also quick to explain that “in the case of trespassing, locking ourselves inside clinics, and violating the law at abortion-mills, we have learned that this course of action severely limits our mission of actually saving lives and bringing the Gospel. It adds an unnecessary and distracting component of litigation, incarceration, and financial distress that only puts distance between us and our mission at the mill and in the culture.”
“Whatever one’s belief regarding this particular strategy of interposition, it is hard not to respect the courage and sacrifice on display in Kentucky today,” Johnston wrote in her blog.
Rusty Thomas is fully convinced of the principle behind the action. “If the Church says abortion is murder, but doesn’t live like people are actually dying, her witness rings hollow.” he said. “Today, we, by God’s grace will provide an example of interposition as churchmen. Our sincere prayer is it will serve as an example for Governor Bevin, the legislators, sheriffs, and police officers to follow in the sphere of their God ordained authority. May God’s Kingdom come and His will be done in Jesus’ name!“
The demonstrators were released from custody Saturday morning.