Gloucester Daily Times Debate on Abortion (4), November 18, 1985.
In between the November 14 editorial of the Times, and my later response, we held a “stroll-a-thon” through downtown Gloucester. The one a year prior had about 300 participants, but the 1985 event was much smaller. Now the initial and larger event had very little coverage by the Times (I need to find where I may have it in my files), and the picture they took was of a small sample of the participants, and our numbers were pegged at “dozens.” Below is the report from 1985, and it is interesting for me in 2015 to see that our mailing list (what the Times called “members”) was then at 2600 families, starting at zero less than two years prior. These were all people who had heard me speak and had signed up. By the time the New England Christian Action Council had to file for bankruptcy (to be detailed in a future posting) in 1991, the active list exceeded 13,000.
Pro-life Group Strolls for Cause (by Jane Fosberry, Times staff)
About 35 abortion foes took part in a three-mile “stroll-a-thon” around downtown Gloucester Saturday to raise money and to demonstrate for their pro-life cause.
You could call the walk a protest, said the Stroll-a-thon’s organizer, John Rankin, but it was more a proclamation of their beliefs.
“It’s just a celebration of life,” said Rankin, executive director of the New England Christian Action Council.
This was the group’s eighth Stroll-a-thon. Rankin said last year the walk drew 300 people, but this year’s walk, to raise money for the Christian Action Council, attracted fewer people because of problems with mailings and rain delays.
From the smiles and car horn blasts that greeted the marchers Saturday, Rankin concluded, “We see a pro-life sentiment.”
But in promoting that sentiment, Rankin said, his group tries not to be caustic. If the group comes on too strong, a woman who needs help will not turn to it, he said.
The group does not believe in using graphic pictures of [aborted] fetuses to get across their message, Rankin said, explaining that such signs are too forceful and do not help people with their cause.
Nor does the group picket abortion clinics, he said, because it is now a woman’s legal right to have an abortion. “If we’ve offered her an alternative and she says ‘no,’ its her legal right,” Rankin said.
The New England group’s office is in Gloucester, and according to Rankin, about 2600 families from all over New England are members.
The Protestant group was founded at Billy Graham’s initiative in 1975, he said, and most members are from Evangelical churches.
Currently, Rankin said he is trying to stop Beverly Hospital from performing abortions, and from referring women who want abortions. He said a protest was planned there, but was called off in favor of dialogue [this was an initiative from the national office in D.C., the “Pastor’s Protest Against Abortion” (PPAA), for which we were glad to pursue dialogue instead].
Rankin said the hospital agreed to change one of their phone-in Ted-Med tapes that suggests abortion is the best alternative for some unwanted pregnancies.
He has also written to Addison Gilbert Hospital administrator Ted Scharfenstein, but has not received and answer yet,