Missouri Congressman Todd Akin’s arrest in 1987 for blocking clinic access became public information after a report published by the People for the American Way. Now, local reporters have combed the news archives to learn that the arrest was not a one-time event, and had occurred multiple times prior to Akin’s first successful political campaign.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has found records of at least two other arrests, both occurring within weeks of each other in 1985. Both arrests happened two years prior to the 1987 arrest reported by PFAW.
The Post-Dispatch writes:
The first of the events, according to the newspaper’s archives, was on March 15, 1985. “Nineteen anti-abortion demonstrators who refused to leave the waiting room of an abortion clinic in the Central West End were carried out by St. Louis police officers Friday morning,” read the next day’s paper.
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Among those arrested, according to the story, was William Akin, 37, of a Creve Coeur address. The age and address are consistent with other information the newspaper has about Todd Akin.
Three weeks later, another six protesters, including Akin, were arrested at another St. Louis demonstration. “Police had to carry Akin into an elevator,” the story read.
On April 5, 1985, Akin was arrested for a third time, one of 10 protestors who were “attempting to block entrances” at Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City, according to the paper. One clinic employee told the paper that the protestors caused minor damage and leveled “verbal abuse” at women entering the clinic.
The Hope Clinic arrest is the more interesting of the ones discovered by the post, as it appears to be the same clinic where four years later Teresa Frank assaulted a woman and Akin, who was no longer involved in protesting, used his political clout to try to get her a reduced punishment.
Akin’s days as an active clinic blockader seem to have ended by the time he was elected in 1988, but with two arrests in 1985 and another in 1987, for those few years at the very least he was involved intimately in the hotbed of anti-choice violence and harassment that was centered in St. Louis. In 1986, Pro-Life Action League members, under director Joe Scheidler, met to form Pro-Life Action Network, the roots of Operation Rescue.
The pro-life activists convened in St. Louis for their annual activist convention and settled on the name Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN) for the coalition. Randall Terry showed up for the first time at that convention and was there mainly as an entertainer. Randy was a terrific jazz pianist. It was at that convention that he introduced his concept of large demonstrations with massive arrests, and coined the term Operation Rescue.
Pro-lifers like John Ryan, Monica Migliorino and Joan Andrews had been doing sit-ins inside of and in front of abortion clinics for several years and had begun to refer to these activities as “rescues,” but Terry popularized the idea and gained national attention when he rallied the Evangelical community to participate in the demonstrations.
Pro-Life Action League, Operation Rescue and other extreme anti-choice groups spent the late eighties and early nineties developing the fine art of “civil disobedience” into an active weapon. What started out as resisting arrest, such as Akin’s first 1985 arrest, where he was forceibly removed from an elevator, would eventually escalate into outright hostility and danger by other activists. The 1988 Democratic National Convention resulting in numerous arrests of protesters chaining themselves to buildings and refusing to give their names when arrested, and by the early nineties, Operation Rescue was offering “training sessions” on how to harass clinic patients and stalk abortion providers. The New York Times wrote about one session in 1993:
[Participant Eric] Johns and his fellow recruits are being trained in tracing license numbers of clinic employees and patients, jamming clinic phone lines and picketing and videotaping doctors at their homes.
“These are the field exercises for what’s to come,” said Keith Tucci, the national executive director of Operation Rescue, who is here as the co-director of the camp, along with Bruce Cadle, the southeast regional director.
Mr. Tucci would not allow a reporter to sit in on the classroom sessions, which he said have included a presentation by two private investigators on electronic surveillance equipment, a lecture by an American-history teacher on the connection between the anti-abortion movement and abolitionism and the use of “Wanted” posters with the names, pictures and addresses of doctors who perform abortions.
“I think the posters are a good idea,” Mr. Tucci said, adding that the posters should always include a disclaimer prohibiting violence. “They expose these people to the community.”
When surgery is scheduled, the recruits plant themselves on the walk outside the clinic, holding up signs with pictures of dead fetuses, taking down license plate numbers of the cars that pull into the driveway and screaming, “Mommy, Mommy, don’t kill me!”
Ms. Arick said that recruits have shown up at several clinic employees’ homes, banging on their doors, videotaping them when they answered and holding picket signs that say “Stop Killing Babies.” They take off before the police arrive.
Akin’s arrests may have stopped once his political career began, but his support for those who were causing harassment continued, if his defense of Franks in 1989 and his admission in the original video that he continues to meet with his fellow “jailbirds” show. Pro-Life Action League’s Scheidler recently called Akin “a true pro-lifer,” telling LifeSiteNews, “He doesn’t make exceptions. Most pro-lifers would be proud of him for this.”