1998-1999: Church protest: Lincoln, NE:
Dr. Winston Crabb has been a gynecologist in Lincoln NE for 25 years. He occasionally
performed abortions. Dr Crabb claims that an Omaha pro-life group called Rescue the
Heartland has "been chasing me around" for years. In 1996-DEC, the
group found that Dr. Crabb was a deacon at Westminster Presbyterian Church in
Lincoln. They started putting pressure on the church as well.
Picketing of the church started on 1997-FEB-23. There were typically a dozen members of Rescue the Heartland in front of the church before each Sunday service and at
various other church events. They held up posters which show bloody pictures of late-term
"aborted fetuses and mangled body parts." 1 Dr.
Crabb commented: "I would not have gotten on session if I'd realized
it was going to create this hassle. But after you are (on session), you can't give in to
them." He has also been ordained as a deacon and is in his final year as a
member of the session.
Rev. Carl Horton, an associate pastor at Westminster, said:
"I think the
community of faith has seen beyond the issue of pro-life, pro-choice or beyond any one
person's position on abortion. You kind of band together as a community to make it through
the storm, and there's this sense of putting those differences aside."
Dr. Crabb and the Westminster Church are featured on an anti-Abortion internet site, The Nuremberg Files. 2 The site lists abortion doctor's names and addresses. It calls
these church members "pew-sitting butchers of God's children." On 1999-FEB-2,
a federal jury found the webmasters of the site guilty of threats to abortion providers.
Damages of at least $100 Million were assessed. The web site is no longer accessible
in its original form.
The Westminster congregation currently has about 1,500 members. They have lost about
100 members since picketing began.
Some parishioners and officials from Westminster complained that children may be harmed
by graphic pictures on the posters. Ross Thompson, a Westminster member and psychologist
specializing in child development commented:
"The kids, especially young
children. . .were very disturbed by the encounters that they and their families would have
with protesters. Younger children had difficulty comprehending the issues that were the
focus of the protests. But what they picked up pretty quickly was the hostility of the
The disturbances led to a city ordinance that restricts picketing
at all churches, from a half hour before church services to half an hour afterwards.
Picketers must stay at least 50 feet from the church or go across the street. The
ordinance was vetoed by the mayor; this was overridden by city council on 1998-SEP. The ordinance
was challenged in federal court
on the grounds that it impeded freedom of speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the
U.S. Constitution. U.S. district Judge Richard Kopf
issued a temporary injunction which barred enforcement of the ordinance. This was extended
on 1998-NOV-4 by a preliminary injunction. He ruled that the bylaw bars "substantially
more speech than is necessary." City council decided on 1999-JAN-11 to
mount an appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, MO.
The protestors have published statements emphasizing that they are exercising their
constitutional rights of free speech; they have denied targeting children. Gene
a lawyer who represents four Rescue the Heartland demonstrators, said:
are dealing with an ordinance that, at least in our opinion, is clearly unconstitutional.
The plaintiffs' activities in protesting on the public sidewalks in front of this church
in a peaceful manner are protected by the Constitution."
The clinic in Omaha where Dr. Crab had performed abortions was closed. On 1999-JAN-3, Rescue
the Heartland spokespersons announced that the picketing would cease. However, Dr.
Crab continued to perform abortions in Lincoln, NE. On JAN-10 and JAN-24, another group
unaffiliated with Rescue the Heartland demonstrated at the church.
Panels are six feet tall and thirteen feet wide. They can be purchased from
Another poster is similar, but is labeled "ungentile, unwhite, unborn".
The final panel shows a decapitated head of a fetus. Still another is labeled "The S.S., The K.K.K.,
Planned Parenthood." They offer posters for sale, and appeal for tax-deductible donations.
Their first major university demonstration was on 1998-APR-3 at Penn State University,
during the Jewish holy day of Passover. The giant poster was displayed for a week. This
was accompanied by four formal presentations, one of which was in a debate
format. They have made other visits to the University of Tennessee and University of Kansas. The latter was
scheduled during Jewish holy days (1998-SEP; Jewish New Year). There was considerable
negative reaction to the display by students.
A decade later, they are still active.
They have a very graphic display online of what appears to be a series of
late-term abortions. It is not to be viewed by the weak of stomach or faint of heart. See http://www.abortionno.org/
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Evan Silverstein, "Anti-Abortion Protests at Presbyterian Church Drive
Some Away, Bring Others Together," PCUSA News, 1999-FEB-3, #99057
- "Neal Horsley," Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- "$100M verdict in landmark 'Net case," at: http://www.wcco.com/
- The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform at: http://www.cbrinfo.org/
- "Genodice: Cambodian killing fields; American killing fields," poster
image, Center for Bio-Ethical Reform at: http://www.abortionno.org/
- "GAP Signs," Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, at: http://www.abortionno.org/ The sign described is in the upper left corner.