Bridgehead for conquest: abortion landlord under seige
By David Tulis
Porter Yarbrough, the landlord of the Chattanooga abortion clinic, had reportedly been converted to Christianity. ‡
Dr. Bizzoco, Mike Jennings & activist DAVID MILLER met with him. Would he be willing to oust the clinic? “In that pastoral counseling, Mr. Yarbrough was informed that there was no ethical or biblical conflict in owning a building that was used for the purposes of performing abortions since these abortions were legal,” Bizzoco said in an affidavit. “He stated that he was not to be intimidated by the threat of guilt or condemnation by others since he was now under grace.”
DAVID TULIS, a Chattanooga News Free Press copy editor, made his own attempt. In a Sept. 16 talk by phone, Yarbrough refused to meet with him & his wife, Jeannette. Yarbrough accused pro-lifers of having a “self-righteous cause” & being “radical do-gooders.” He said he could not halt 1 sin — abortion — by committing another sin — not paying his lenders.
Yarbrough was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. “Personally, I don’t feel I’m sinning in the continued ownership of the building.” He said he’d repented of having signed the lease.
On Oct. 7, 1992, Tulis filed an ecclesiastical lawsuit with the government of Yarbrough’s church, a major one in Chattanooga. He said Yarbrough “earns roughly $24 for every boy & girl destroyed by abortion.”
Yarbrough’s pastor wrote to Tulis, “A committee of our session has met with Mr. Yarbrough at length about the matters raised in your complaint. Mr. Yarbrough has expressed a strong desire to divest himself of this real estate, & has it on the market for sale. He has also notified the tenant that he will not renew the lease when it expires on or about April 30, 1993. It does not appear to us that Mr. Yarbrough can legally do anything else to deal with this situation, & we concur with his proposed remedy.”
Fellow complainant Pastor Bob Borger pursued the matter. “Aside from the legal complications present, will your church deal with Mr. Yarbrough ecclesiastically? Has he been formally admonished for his sin? Is he currently free to approach the Lord’s table? Should he fail to distance himself from the clinic after the expiration of the current lease, would he face disciplinary action by your court?”
Finally Borger filed an appeal to the denomination’s next-highest court, focusing on the state of Christian care to which Yarbrough might be made subject.
Pastor Borger had occasion to air his concerns at an assembly of clergymen Jan. 9, 1993, at Covenant College. Voice quavering, Borger spoke. Yarbrough’s pastor addressed the host of ministers & elders in his grandest, most indignant tones. Tempers flared.
‘Rush, rush, rush!’ — The rise, fall of Chattanooga abortion clinic (1)
In 1990s, pro-life pressure against abortion clinic intensifies (II)
The small-church pastor sought a commission to investigate the public scandal connected with Yarbrough & make recommendations.
The big-church pastor argued the public scandal was an internal matter for his church’s elders alone. He prevailed; no commission was formed. Although Borger appealed aspects of the case in church courts until January 1995, Yarbrough was not disciplined by his congregation, even after breaking his word by attempting to sell the building to the abortionist just before the lease expired.
Abortionist Tries to Take Over Building
Yarbrough had made a motion to sell the building to Dr. Perry. A 10-day period in which creditors & other parties could file objections to the motion was nearly expired when Christian attorney DICK CROTTEAU made an urgent call to a Christian colleague in the bankruptcy field, RICK JAHN. The deadline in which to file an objection was that day; could he intervene? Jahn scanned a list of creditors and recognized the name of a Christian physician.
The amount owed was a paltry F$75, Jahn said, but the doctor had legal standing to object. Jahn rang the doctor’s office, but couldn’t get through, & got no return call. Jahn decided that he take an ethical risk. He would step forward on behalf of the doctor, confident his steps would be ratified later by him. Jahn raced to draft a motion as the late afternoon deadline neared & file it at the clerk’s office on East 11th Street.
He almost didn’t make it.
As he walked from his office toward court, he was seized by “weird” waves of nausea, & nearly crumpled on the sidewalk in a spasm of dizziness — “as if it were a satanic attack,” he said later. But it was God’s providence that he file the objection, bringing another 10 days breathing room to the anxious parties on the court docket.
Bidding Duel Brings Victory for Christians
Understanding the circumstances before them, the board of feisty ProLife Majority Coalition of Chattanooga half seriously voted to try to buy the building. On April 30, 1993, more than 250 Christians pooling their capital delivered an economically fatal blow to the clinic that had done 90 percent of the city’s abortions.
Spokeswoman PAT LINDLEY said there were “unlimited resources” suddenly available for the buyout of the Chattanooga abortion clinic site on 6230 Vance Road from the hands of Porter Yarbrough, enfeebled in Chapter 11 reorganization.
“Word got out, & the phones began ringing off the hook,” said ProMaCC treasurer MIKE JENNINGS, a lawyer.
“We asked the Lord God to raise up this money,” Mrs. Lindley said. “If 1 child’s life is spared because there’s [a] time lag between when they leave Vance Road & find somewhere else, it will be worth it. Can anyone put price tag on the life of even 1 child? *** The Lord made it possible to buy this building, & we will seek from Him what to do with it next.”
The parties stood before federal bankruptcy judge JOHN COOK, with pro-lifers on one hand & a jean-clad circuit-riding abortionist Dr. Perry & his lawyer, ALLISON LYNCH, on the other. The first bid was from Dr. Perry, for F$254,000. The pro-lifers bid F$5,000 higher.
Up the price went.
Dr. Bizzoco stood by with an open checkbook, ready to make sure the Christians didn’t lose for want of a few thousand dollars. Jahn and other lawyers handed over checks to Jennings.
Two minutes later, Perry called in quits at F$289,000. He strode out of court as the judge accepted the next highest offer — F$294,000 from the private citizens, who also had reached their limit. The total proved a blessing to Yarbrough, who got F$70,000 more than the junky building’s appraised value.
The average check was for F$2,500. Members of a small north Georgia Presbyterian church led the way with large contributions. The tiniest — F$3.37, a newspaper reported — came from a Sunday school class of 3-year-olds at the church.
Believers said they bought the building to halt continuing transgression of God’s commandments. “There is no other explanation for the sacrificial giving by people who stand to gain absolutely nothing personally by the purchase of this property,” Mrs. Lindley said. “We know that this has come about only by the power of our sovereign God. We have seen the enemy camp delivered into the hands of God’s people.”
Dr. Bizzoco said God’s people acted decisively. “What this says is that they are not all talk, & they are willing to pay the price to put their beliefs into action.”
The clinic went out of business May 17 when the sale closed. A crowd of pro-lifers crossed the painted white line on the parking lot that had restricted pickets for 8 years. The city of 152,000 residents for the 1st time since 1975 had no clinic operating whose primary trade was the slaughter of boys & girls. The loss of its property allowed a surviving owner of Chattanooga Women’s Clinic Inc., FRED CRAWLEY, to pull the plug on the business. He quickly sold or gave away its assets (Times, May19, 20/93, T-FP, Aug1/93).
Building Gets Godly Purpose
Christians toured the refurbished property Jan. 23, 1994, to celebrate the conversion of the death mill into a right-to-live center.
The building became the site of the 1st National Memorial to the Unborn. It is also the site of the relocated crisis pregnancy center, AAA Women’s Services, formerly across the street. “We now have more room for counseling, a prayer closet, more bathrooms & a place where women can pick up pregnancy clothes or baby clothes, all donated & all free,” volunteer Stephanie Wharton told the Times.
“With abortion no longer an option here, we are seeing more women who are in need of counseling & help, so I would expect to be busy this year.”
Though 4 local doctors were identified as trying to take up some of abortion demand with in-office procedures, Chattanooga had become the largest American city with no full-time abortion clinic.
‡ Porter Yarbrough died in October 2011, a devout Christian.