A Northern Virginia antiabortion activist yesterday condemned the graphic antiabortion images and messages attached to the end of videotapes borrowed from two Fairfax County libraries.
Richard Enrico, founder of the Fairfax-based Christians Against Abortion, called the tampering, which included altering tapes meant for small children, "inexcusable" and added that "whoever did it should reexamine their motives because they are directing their message at the wrong people.
"The children don't have any say in this matter; it's the adults that have to address the abortion issue," Enrico said. "If a pro-life person did this, I think they are out of line."
Enrico also said he was not convinced the tapes had been altered by someone promoting antiabortion views.
"My suspicion is that it could just as easily be done by someone to disparage the pro-life movement," Enrico said. "Pro-life people tend to be more outward. If they had done something like this, they would have put the message at the front of the tape, where everyone can see it."
Since June, Fairfax County Library officials have discovered four or five videotapes -- including several videos of children's stories -- with antiabortion messages and footage of fetuses recorded after the credits at the end of the tapes. The messages appear to have been taken from an antiabortion meeting and include graphic descriptions of how abortions are performed and biblical verses related to childbirth.
The videotapes so far have surfaced only at the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library on Leesburg Pike in McLean and the George Mason Regional Library on Little River Turnpike in Annandale. Most public libraries were closed yesterday, but officials in Anne Arundel and Howard counties and the city of Alexandria said they had no reports of similar problems with their tapes.
"We've not had any patrons bring any videotapes like that to our attention," said Marjorie Tallichet, deputy director of the Alexandria public library system.
In Fairfax, every message discovered has been erased by the library staff. Also, librarians have been asked to check for tampering when they use tapes in the 19,000-tape collection. The collection is considered too big to mount an exhaustive check, however.
Library officials don't know who tampered with the tapes, but the action is considered defacing county property, a misdemeanor subject to up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines. For privacy reasons, library officials said they do not keep records of who borrowed library materials.
"This sort of thing seems to go beyond the political struggle now being waged on abortion," said Marie-Jose Ragab, president of the Dulles Area chapter of the National Organization for Women. "There is a certain viciousness about destroying public property like this, and exposing little children to this. It is very sad."
Ragab said she doubted the tampering is the work of anyone advocating the right to an abortion. "What would we have to gain by doing something like this? As I said, this action goes beyond whether you are for or against abortion."