What bothered Margaret Murphy-Molloy most about being in jail was the blaring music that started before dawn and lasted until after midnight. And the catcalls from male prisoners when she walked by.
Safely back in her country-cozy Olney home yesterday morning after serving two nights in the Montgomery County Detention Center, the 30-year-old mother of three said she will go to jail again to protest abortion. But, she added, it is her 30-year-old husband Brian's turn next.
Along with a Chevy Chase homemaker, a Rockville health specialist and two professional antiabortion activists, Murphy-Molloy chose jail instead of paying a $45 fine for blocking entry to a public place during an abortion protest Nov. 17 outside the Metro Medical and Women's Center in Wheaton. Two days after the protest, a bomb ripped through the structure, sparking a fire that caused an estimated $350,000 in damage.
The Murphy-Molloys, a devoutly Catholic family, illustrate that wing of the national right-to-life movement whose quiet, deeply held resolve against abortion has evolved into a protest that, though not as violent as recent clinic bombings, is equally fervent.
" . . . I went to jail, hopefully to make the public . . . see a busy person is willing to take the time out and go to jail if that's what it takes to keep these unborn children from being brought to slaughter," Murphy-Molloy said from her jail cell Wednesday.
She and the four other protesters who went to jail, all members of the prolife Non-Violent Action Project, a Gaithersburg group that claims 1,000 members, deny any connection between their protests and the bombings here and in other areas of the country.
But prochoice advocates say that picketing at clinics has encouraged most of the 30 bombings of clinics across the country.
"There is at least some pattern in some places of increasingly hostile picketing and harassment before hostile acts," said Patricia Donovan, a researcher at the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based health care research organization affilated with Planned Parenthood.
According to the National Abortion Federation, an organization of 284 abortion providers, reported incidences of pickets and harassment of patients and staff have increased sharply in recent years. Last year, 157 such incidents were reported as against 61 in 1983, 22 in 1982 and 2 in 1981.
The Murphy-Molloys said they, and other mainstream antiabortion protesters, have become activists out of frustration with the Supreme Court's 1983 reaffirmation of the legality of abortion and the defeat of the Hatch Amendment, a measure that would have put some curbs on abortion.
The couple has long thought that abortion is murder, growing up as they did in large families in Detroit. But it was their move to affluent Montgomery County from Detroit a year and a half ago that triggered their increased activism. Their neighbors in a new subdivision seemed only to care about material possessions, Murphy-Molloy said.
"I am appalled with these people," she said. "I wish they'd get interested in Save the Whales or something, anything beyond material goods." Murphy-Molloy added that since their neighbors discovered her family is opposed to abortion, they have beeen ignored in the neighborhood.
Murphy-Molloy said she limits her protests to quietly explaining alternatives to abortion and to blocking would-be abortion patients from entering clinics. With the same emotion she uses to condemn abortion, she decries the tactic of violence.
"The destruction of property is wrong. The most violent we get, we go limp on the police officers when they try to take us away," she said, sipping coffee to stave off the exhaustion brought by two sleepless nights in jail.
"There's always a possibility that there could be a nut in the group but . . . I couldn't even fathom that," she continued. "The type of person that would blow a center up isn't going to be the one that's out there picketing and sidewalk counseling when it's cold. They want instant relief."
From cells at the county jail on Wednesday, each of the other four protesters echoed Murphy-Molloy's sentiments.
Thirty-four-year-old Cecile Smith of Chevy Chase, said the November protest marked her entry into the antiabortion movement. For 49-year-old Christian Mullsteff of Rockville, "God says I should be "The destruction of property is wrong. The most violent we get, we go limp on the police . . . . " -- Margaret Murphy-Molloy here." The two other protesters -- John Cavanaugh-O'Keefe and Harry Hand -- have been jailed several times before to protest abortion and make their livings organizing antiabortion groups.
On Wednesday, just 12 hours before Murphy-Molloy's 6 a.m. release, her husband and three daughters came to to the bleak beige concrete detention center to visit her.
"I'm proud of her," said 9-year-old Karrey, a fourth grader at Belmont Elementary School. But 6-year-old Katie, who is brain-damaged and hearing-impaired, was intent on trying to coax candy from a broken vending machine in the hallway outside the jail cubicle where her father and mother were spending 10 minutes in as private a conversation as the jailhouse allows.