Twelve members of the Washington Area Pro-Life Coalition were arrested yesterday after their nonviolent demonstration disrupted operations at two downtown abortion clinics, D.C. police reported.
Jeanne Miller, a spokeswoman for the Coalition, said the demonstration at the Women's Medical Center and the Laurel Clinic, both located at 1712 I St. NW, was held to dramatize the group's concern and to "end the killing that goes on in the clinics."
Mary Ann Kineren, community relations spokeswoman for the Women's Medical Center, said the demonstration was "disgraceful, disorderly, and unjustified."
Police reported that the arrests followed a 1 1/2-hour occupation by the demonstrators of the offices, and that those arrested had to be carried away bodily.
Witnesses said the clinic offices were surrounded and occupied by about 60 protesters at 9 a.m. When police arrived, they said they found about 30 protesters outside picketing and another 30 inside the offices blocking doorways and "disrupting normal operations at the clinics.
According to police those arrested were charged with unlawful entry and would be released without bail.
Jeanne Miller of the Pro-Life Colaition said, "We also wanted to tell the women there waiting for abortions those facts about abortion which are not given to them by the clinics. The women aren't told about the facts of final development, nor about the harm abortions can do to their own health."
Miller said the demonstration was "entirely successful" because "we managed to dissuade two patients there from having abortions. It's worth our spending years in jail whenever we can show people the light on this issue."
Fineren disputed Miller's claim about dissuading patients from having abortions. She described the center as a "reproductive and counseling facility." She said it offers an extensive array of gynecological programs, sexual assault and menopause counseling, as well as first trimester abortion services.
She said that "they (the protesters) harassed the staff and patients, threw themselves on the floor when the police came, and were verbally abusive to everyone around."
"The staff managed to get the patients into another area of the building away from them, but they remained - calling us murderers and answering our phones saying the offices were closed."
Fineren said the center had never had any trouble with demonstrators before, and that the protesters were unjustified in obstructing "such needed services as those we offer."
Spokespersons at the Laurel Clinic were unavailable for comment."