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Operation Save America Holds 'Wake' in Jackson Square
Even though it's not Mardi Gras or Southern Decadence, conservative Christian protesters from out of town are in New Orleans this week. A series of protests are being run by a national anti-abortion organization called Operation Save America. The latest public demonstration took place Tuesday (7-22) morning in Jackson Square, where the group held a wake for an aborted fetus.
“In 1995 there were 10 abortion clinics in New Orleans, now there is just one” says Flip Benham, the director of the abortion protests. “Our prayer is that the last one will be closed and that the Planned Parenthood under construction will never be built.”
The wake for the unborn child in Jackson Square began Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. Protesters gathered around a small white box with a very large fetus in it, performing a wake with crying attendants forming a line to place carnations around the casket. The event closed with a performance of "Amazing Grace" by young children. The protestors named the fetus Amos and stated that it came from outside of New Orleans. Under state law, no abortion clinic can perform the procedure after 20 weeks. Exact retrieval methods were unclear. “Most of the time we find them in dumpsters” says Benham.
When asked about the goal of the protest, Benham responded, “our goal is to lift up the Gospel of Christ at abortion mills and give women a real choice… [Jesus] will take that curse and turn it into a blessing. Just give Him a little time."
This week the protestors have also been picketing outside a private home of a clinic doctor as well as the new Planned Parenthood construction site on South Claiborne Avenue. “We come from all over the country,” says Benham. “Many of us have just come from jail after being arrested protesting at other abortion mills.”
In response to these protests, The New Orleans Abortion Fund has been consolidating clinic escorts and legal observers to guarantee that clinics can stay open during the protests and that patients are able to receive care. They emphasize non-engagement with the protestors so that focus can be placed on the clinics and patient safety. If people want to engage, NOAF asks people to engage local legislature and councilmembers, joining a Hobby Lobby protest or writing op-eds about the importance of health-care in your community.
“The presence of counter-protestors - while well-intentioned and appreciated - can often escalate situations with "sidewalk counselors" and other anti-choice protestors. With groups like Operation Rescue/Operation Save America, that potential is even higher,” wrote NOAF in a public statement.
Upon the arrival of the protesters, the city issued an official welcome from Mayor Mike Landrieu’s office, awarding the organization with a certificate thanking Operation Save America for their “outstanding service to the city of New Orleans." The mayor's welcome was first reported by Uptown Messenger. City spokesman Tyler Gamble later said the certificate was issued in error.
Abortion clinics have been closing rapidly in Louisiana. Most recently, governor Bobby Jindal has signed new legislation imposing extensive new restrictions on abortion clinics. Many of the restrictions make it impossible for clinics to comply and will force their closure when the law goes into effect on September 1st. Some say that the new laws throw us back to a pre-Roe v. Wade era. Soon women will have to travel hours and cross state boarders to find clinics.
The new law also prohibits abortion providers or their affiliates (like Planned Parenthood) to distribute information on sexual health related issues in public or charter schools.
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