Anti-abortion protesters may take their message to Spokane-area high schools next month as part of a national campaign by Operation Rescue to reach teenagers.
Spokane is one of 120 cities where protesters will stand on sidewalks outside high schools, holding graphic pictures of aborted fetuses and distributing literature, said the Rev. Flip Benham, Operation Rescue’s national director.
The demonstrations are scheduled to start March 3 and run until the end of the school year, Benham said.
“We are going to be saying to the kids that we are sorry God was expelled from school,” Benham said. “We are sorry that God was replaced by metal detectors, condoms, drugs and gangs.
“We are looking to bring God back into the school, not just prayer, but the Ten Commandments.”
In Spokane, the Rev. Jim Anderson described the demonstration as a “strong possibility,” but not a sure thing. He said details, including which school districts might be targeted and the duration of any protests, have not yet been worked out.
Anderson, founder of Lifeline Ministries in Spokane, said he has been discussing the idea with other pastors and praying.
“We are waiting to hear from the Holy Spirit,” he said. “We are trying to get a sense if this is what the Lord wants us to do.”
The national campaign, called “Going to the Gates,” is a reference to Biblical times when governments held public forums at the city gates, considered places of commerce and discussion.
“In modern times, we would consider the public schools a gate, a place where there is influence, a battlefield,” Anderson said.
District 81 officials said they have known about the possible demonstrations for about a week.
“There is no action we have planned to prevent this from occurring,” said Cynthia Lambarth, associate superintendent for educational services.
Sidewalks around schools are considered public areas, open to anyone, she said. They are frequently used to distribute literature to students.
It is illegal to block students’ access to school and to trespass on school grounds. Most groups who target students with a message in this manner are well aware of the boundaries, she said.
“Our concern is not disrupting the educational program,” Lambarth said.
Other than making principals aware of the situation and maybe having a few extra security guards on hand, there is nothing school officials can do, she said.
Benham said that ideally there would be five people at each school, two holding a large graphic picture of an aborted fetus and three distributing literature.
“We want to show them what life really is,” he said. “We are not going to try to be open-minded or reasonable when it comes to the lives of the innocent and dealing with the enemy.”
Lambarth said several other people opposed to abortion have called her to say they would be shocked if someone showed pictures of aborted fetuses to students.
But Anderson said he thinks high school students are mature enough and have been exposed to enough other violence to handle images of abortion.
“These kids see 10,000 murders a year on television,” Anderson said. “They show photographs of the Holocaust to high school students, but there are never any charges that these images traumatize the children.
“The only people who are traumatized are the adults who don’t want to deal with their own hypocrisy.”
Anderson said the anti-abortion movement is targeting teenagers because they represent a significant portion of the women getting abortions every year.
Anderson estimates about 10 girls at each high school in the county receive abortions each year.
“I know God really loves young people and young people end up at Planned Parenthood,” he said.
The board president of Planned Parenthood of Spokane and Whitman Counties said it was unlikely abortion rights supporters would hold counterdemonstrations.
“That’s not to say that none of our supporters will get involved,” said Gail Ekins. “That would be up to them.”