‘Targets of aggressive picketing feel helpless’
Gannett News Service Series – Part Three
Dallas – Watching the Abortion Abolition Society picket outside his parents’ home this Father’s Day, Darryl Prince punched his fist into his hand again and again.
“I’d give anything to tear his throat out,” said Prince, 29, as Winston Wilder, the society’s president, marched down the road. Wilder and others carried signs calling Darryl’s father, Dr. Robert Prince, a murderer.
The doctor tried to comfort his son by recalling the days he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King.
“If we take this away from them, they can take something away from us,” said the black doctor, who performs abortions. The right to protest and march, he said, “is part of the democratic process.”
But within minutes, the philosophizing was replaced with a fistfight, after society members started chanting on a bullhorn, “Neighbors. Awaken, Awaken. There’s a murderer on the block.”
Once again, anti-abortion picketing had turned into a brawl. As the new activists get more aggressive and take their cause into residential communities, citizens fear violence could escalate into a fight with guns.
It looked like a normal suburb, with sprawling homes and fancy cars, where the major disturbances on a Sunday morning should be a whirring lawnmower or howling dog. Prince’s street had been quiet early on Father’s Day.
By 9:30 a.m., however, women wearing dresses and patent leather heels marched in the hot Texas son, pushing baby carriages and holding pictures of dismembered fetuses. Men shouted and spoke through bullhorns, trying to coax Prince outside.
But the doctor stayed indoors. While his wife peeked through the curtains, he talked about the days of illegal abortion. “Two or three times a week, I saw cases of botched abortion,” he said. “I’ve watched several young ladies die. I’ve had to perform hysterectomies on teens to stop the bleeding.
“I don’t think abortion is the solution,” he said. “But I don’t believe in compulsory pregnancy either.”
For years, Prince lobbied for sex education in the schools, but officials rejected his proposals. Pregnant girls still come to his office, he said, telling him they thought sex would be safe if they did it standing up.
Prince spoke calmly, until he walked outdoors to watch the picketers finish their rally. When they started screaming, “Lay Down Your Death Instrument,” he couldn’t resist talking back.
“Your anger is an admission of your guilt,” an activists yelled. “I pity you.”
Prince screamed “I deliver more babies than I…”
“Than you kill,” the activist said. “Admit your sin. We’ll allow you to repent.”
“Let God judge me, don’t you judge me,” Prince shouted. “Quit trying to play God.”
As Prince and his son yelled at the picketers to get off the lawn, the doctor ran into the house, yelling, “I’ll get you out of here.” He came out empty-handed, but by then Darryl Prince had slugged a picketer.
The Abortion Abolition Society filed a suit against Prince for assault, but the complaint was dropped after a grand jury hearing.
“He called me nigger and I automatically reacted,” Darryl Prince said, after the police had come and gone. “The sad part about this is the type of family we are. There’s nothing you can’t ask my Dad. His life has been trying to help people. I should be able to get out of my driveway without someone hollering that my father is a murderer.”
Wilder said no one called Darryl Prince a nigger. People get upset, he said, because they can’t stand hearing the truth. He explained how, in just a few months, Dallas pro-lifers had forced to clinic to move, a doctor to quit performing abortions and a hospital to stop doing the operations.
The society’s newsletter proclaims, “You don’t have to be a medical doctor, a literary genius, or the like, to do great things. Perhaps history will show that, in our day, the common man did more to save lives and alter the course of American history than the professional elite.”
The day after the clinic in Mesquite, Texas, burned, Wilder and his followers picketed the ashes with signs saying, “Buildings can be replaced, lives can’t.” On Saturday mornings, member Tony Hammontree spends hours talking on a bullhorn outside clinics, reading the Bible and speaking for the fetus:
“I cry out from my mother’s tummy. Do not let those strangers take me. God will hold you accountable for the sin you’re about to commit.”
“This stuff is our fun,” Hammontree says. “Our pleasure is doing what we consider God’s work.”
Gayle Cloud said a swarm of society members pushed her to the ground as she tried to enter one clinic. Cloud, 28, said she had come to the clinic for a pregnancy test, but remained inside for 30 minutes after her appointment – until she mustered the courage to go outside.
“I was shaking and thinking, ‘Oh, what if I am a murderer?’ It put me in a panic.”
A police officer escorted her to her car, she said, and then had to clear the mob from the parking lot so she could drive down the road.
“I thought the whole idea was we had a choice to do this,” she said. “This is America. This should not be happening.”