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Operation Rescue campaign gets kids' attention

leaflets March 3, 1997
Web posted at: 10:35 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Christine Negroni

In this story:

NORTH BERGEN, New Jersey (CNN) -- Operation Rescue launched a new campaign Monday targeted at teen-agers. The effort, called "God Is Going Back To School," aims to bring an anti-abortion perspective to students at high schools across the United States. Protests were planned outside high schools in 100 cities.

"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, 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 fetuses and handling pamphlets to students as they got off the buses.

Something to talk about

At Beverly Hills High in California, the principal saw the entire event as educational. "I think it's a good opportunity for social studies classes, for example, to talk about the educational issue of today's protest," said Principal Ben Bushman.


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."

New tactic for Operation Rescue

The school protest is a new tactic for Operation Rescue, known for its past acts of civil disobedience. Protests, including staged sit-ins outside abortion clinics, proved costly as the group lost one court case after another.


By turning attention to high schools, the group minimizes the legal risk while targeting 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 vilified, is in favor of abortion talk among students. But the head of a local Planned Parenthood chapter 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 Monday's provide education on a subject kids aren't learning about elsewhere. On that count it is partially correct.

According to a study several years ago by the Sexuality Information Education Council, only 11 states included the subject of abortion in their health education curriculum.

In New Jersey, Operation Rescue came in with fewer than a dozen people, yet it got a whole school talking.


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