Jeanne Miller, 18, will be starting her sophomore year at Yale University this month - if she doesn't decide to go to jail.
Her best friend from Bowie High School, Diane Bodner, 19, will go back to the University of Maryland - unless she too chooses being in custody over paying a $500 fine for disobeying a federal judge's order not to stage a sit-in in a Fairfax County abortion clinic.
Both young women have been arrested and jailed before. While others their age are worrying about boyfriends, clothes or jobs, they worry about fetuses, nuclear war, lobbying legislatures and "stopping the killing."
The two friends are part of what they claim is a growing movement of antiabortion protestors involved in "nonviolent direct action" - the intellectual descendants, they say, of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Berrigan brothers. Between 300 and 500 people, mostly young and educated, are involved in these sit-ins at abortion clinics in 15 states, according to National Right to Life Committee estimates. The committee held a workshop on nonviolent protest at its last convention.
For no discernible reason, the Washington area has been the scene of more sit-ins than any other place in the nation. Since the country's first antiabortion sit-in at the Sigma Reproductive Health Center in Rockville, in 1975, there have been more than a dozen in the Washington area, including the six at the Northern Virginia Women's Medical Center in Fairfax, where Miller's and Bodner's latest arrests accurred.
The "Pro-Life" versus "Pro-Choice" battle promise to be a long one, waged for years to come in courts and capitol buildings as well as in frontline skirmishes such as the Fairfax incidents.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1973 the abortions in the first three months of pregnancy should be a question for a woman and her doctor to decide - an event commemorated in metal bracelets saying "January 22, 1973" that both Bodner and Miller wear - groups such as the 11 million-member Right to Life Committee have been trying to counter it. As the fight intensifies over questions of Medicaid funding parental permission and constitutional amendments, so do the emotions.
"Pro-Choice" spokesman say that "nonviolent" sit-ins are not nonviolent at all; that in fact they rupture a woman's right to privacy and as one put it, attack her "personhood" as surely as if she had been smacked in the face.
"Pro-Life" militants contend that abortion is murder, and have decided that the only course acceptable to their consciences is to "place our bodies between the (pregnant) women and the room where abortions are performed," as 22-year-old law student Burke Balch phrased it.
Though participants say the sit-ins grow spontaneously from discussions among members of an affinity group of Pro-Lifers, they are carefully organized in the sense that people are appointed to be media contacts, others to be arrested, and others to carry signs, distribute literature or sing. Some people, called counselors, "inform the women of alternatives available to them that we love them and support them," Bodner said.
During the first part of the July 27 contempt hearing in which federal Judge J. Calvitt Clarke ordered Miller and Bodner and their codefendants, David Gaetano, 27, and Mary Beth McKernan, 18, to pay the fine or go to jail in 30 days, a woman sitting in the front row got up.
Pregnant and carrying an infant under one arm, she walked slowly up to the rail that separates the participants from the audience. Almost reverentially, she placed a hand on he shoulder at one of the protester's. Then she ritually touched the next.
As she placed her hand on the third, a female marshal asked her to stop. She shrugged off the Marshal's restraining arm. The marshal then led her firmly to the door, and she began screaming something unintelligible. She continued to scream as she left the courtroom, and her screams echoed through the closed door until she left the building.
Neither Miller nor Bodner remembers exactly when she knew she was against abortion. "I remember hearing about the (1973) Supreme Court decision on the radio and thinking, 'Oh, that's dumb, they just legalized murder,'" said Bodner.
The two met in ninth grade gym class five years ago. Miller was a new student and Bodner took it upon herself to make friends. She noticed Miller's metal Right to Life bracelet and asked her what it was; finding they shared views on abortion helped get the friendship started.
Miller's involvement began even earlier. She close to live with her father in Bowie after her parents separated; her four brothers and sisters moved with her mother to Ocean City. She spent half a year in New York City when she was 12, living with Jewish relatives and going to a Catholic school.
"My father used to take me to antiwar marches to observe," she said, "We were going to the Kenneth Clark lectures at the Smithsonian and they were on Saturdays, like most of the marches. My father is very big on education. He'd take us fossil hunting, or to see buildings torn down, to the theater. . . his whole idea was to be open to other ideas.
"When I was 13 I asked him for some books about abortion. He said, 'You already know you're against it, why don't you read books on the other side?'" So she read Alan Guttmacher and Paul Ehrlich, and found, she said, that reading works by these population control advocates horrified her.
"When Jeanne was in fourth grade," said Bodner, "her father sent her a letter that said 'Today you will learn about logarithms,' and then he explained them in a way that you could really understand."
For a time Miller's father helped run the Prince George's County Right to Life chapter out of his basement. He is a stockbroker, she said.
Miller skipped the eighth and 11th grades, then spent an extra year of high school in New Hamsphire at Phillips Exeter Academy, before entering Yal. She has worked as a laboratory technician in Rockville for the last three summers.
During her final year at Bowie High School. Miller skipped school often to represent the Pro-Life position at health fairs, debates, and school classes, and to lobby on Capitol Hill.
Both women reflect a seriousness of purpose that is unusual at their ages.
One day in August 1974, Bodner wanted to find Miller, whom she had not seen for a while. "I figured she'd be at the Senate Subcommittee (on Constitutional Amendments) hearings," Bodner said, as though she were talking about the local fast-food teen hangout. As it happened, she looked in the newspaper to see where the subcommittee was meeting, took a bus from Bowie to the Capitol, found the hearing and her friend.
Abortion protest has taken up an increasingly large chunk of their lives, as fellow protesters make up their social as well as political friends. Neither has a fixed address right now. Bodner is living with a Pro-Life organizer; Miller is "staying wight friends" until she goes back to school. Neither is sure of anything in the future - profession, marriage, goals - other than a certainty that they will participate in more sit-ins.
The way they see it, the purpose of the sit-ins is this: that while they are at the clinic, abortions are not being performed. Thus they are "saving lives."
"It's like walking down the street and seeing a man beat up a child," Miller said, in a comment echoed in almost identical words by Bodner in a later interview. "What do you do, write a letter to your congressman and say child abuse is bad? Some laws are so unjust they have no claim to your conscience."
The protesters compare Judge Clarke to judges in Nazi Germany who condoned the slaughter of Jews. "Everything that happened in Nazi Germany was legal," Miller said.
"What we're trying to say is, this is my brother you're trying to kill and I'm going to try nonviolently to protect him. So I'm not going to leave willingly because his life is at stake."
Not everyone agrees that their actions are nonviolent.
"A lot of the women they're scaring the hell out of are there because they're very young, or have a medical problem like diabetes or are carrying a terminally diseased fetus - you have no way of knowing why a woman is there just by looking at her," said Davida Perry of Washington-based Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, an association of church groups supporting the Supreme Court decision. "It doesn't occur to them that maybe a woman who's there was raped, or that they've already been through a great deal of torment. They're doing violence to her personhood. They see her as a symbol, and not as an individual. That's more than I can stomach."
A 26-year-old government employe who was waiting to have abortion when Miller, Bodner and the others sat in at the Northern Virginia Women's Medical Center on July 20 said the demonstration was an invasion of her privacy.
"If I go to the doctor for a cold I don't expect to have a Christian Scientist there in the office saying "Don't take pills," she said.
"I can understand their point of view," she added. "But I don't see why they should try to impose it on other people."
"By being here they may provoke violence," said Sharon McCann, director of the clinic. "I've had to restrain boyfriends; they get so angry at these people invading their privacy. One guy even put his feet through a glass coffee table, he was so mad.
Bodner and Miller said the parents would prefer them not to be arrested. "My parents said, 'It's your choice, but we don't have to support you,'" said Bodner, who has supported herself for a year by working as a waitress.
"The thing that's hard to justify to ourselves," Miller said, "is the two and half years when we weren't doing sit-ins."