WASHINGTON – "Rescue those who have been unjustly sentenced to death," yelled Jill Stanek as she was led away in handcuffs, just outside the Capitol Hill office of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
The pro-life activist was talking about infant victims of partial-birth abortions, and she was addressing about a dozen members of the media who had been shooed from the office by a dozen Capitol Hill Police.
Shortly after 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Stanek, Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition Rev. Pat Mahoney and four other pro-life advocates began kneeling and praying in front of Boehner's office door, and about 10 minutes later, officers moved in and began arresting the protesters.
The arrests were orderly, and the activists offered no resistance. Stanek told WND earlier in the day the strategy was to emulate the civil disobedience of Martin Luther King Jr. and that she considered it a struggle for the civil rights of pre-born children.
"Always peaceful," she said softly but firmly. "We are Christians first, called to defend the defenseless."
Boehner actually supports a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, so why were some of the nation's leading pro-life activists so upset with the GOP leader that they held a sit-in in front his office?
Because, the activists insist, he has mismanaged the bill into a state of limbo.
Speaking to the media outside Boehner's office before kneeling and praying, Stanek said she and her companions were "frustrated and disgusted" over the politicization of the bill.
Her intention was to "reorient focus upon babies literally being drawn and quartered on a daily basis."
She also expressed concern for the health of women, noting, "Veterinarian clinics are more regulated than abortion clinics in my home state of Illinois."
See the WND interview of Operation Rescue President Troy Newman before his arrest:
Newman said if this were truly the most pro-life Congress ever, and if Boehner really was the most pro-life speaker ever, as he has claimed, he should shelve all other business because "nothing is more important than saving innocent lives."
"We may forfeit a tiny bit of our freedom, but that is nothing compared with the freedom lost by those children," Newman said.
Indeed, the protesters remained in jail for only a few hours. Newman emailed WND that he had been freed at 4:45 p.m. Stanek texted that she was free at 4:56 p.m. When WND asked if all the activists had been freed, she replied, "Not yet ... one by one ..."
Before his arrest, Newman turned his ire directly to the House speaker.
"Boehner, get your act together. Stop ignoring the people who got you elected. Four months into the year and still no bill. It is laughable to call this the most pro-life Congress ever."
He emphasized there was a need to instill a sense of urgency because Congress is in a "spineless and cowardly mode."
See the WND video of pro-life leaders addressing the media:
Mahoney added, "The GOP must stop ignoring us. This is a clear warning for 2016."
One protester prayed that Boehner would find the courage to breathe life back into the bill.
She also called abortion "treating children with inhumanity just because of where they are located, in the womb."
Protesters wore T-shirts that read: "Pre-born babies feel the pain #Freetheban."
The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would ban abortions after 20 weeks, based on evidence that unborn babies feel intense pain by that age.
But the bill hit an unexpected roadblock when a number of female lawmakers, including Reps. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C.; Ann Wagner, R-Mo.; and Jackie Wolorski, R-Ind., who all have pro-life voting records, and even one of the bill's co-sponsors, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., expressed reservations about the legislation because it did not do enough to allow rape victims to have abortions, a move that Life News said "sabotaged" the bill.
When GOP House leaders feared they didn't have enough votes to pass the bill, they shelved it Jan. 21, and they're now reportedly trying to carefully re-draft the legislation so it doesn't run into the same problem. Bohener told Life News he's committed to bringing the bill back to the floor for a vote and passing it.
So, why did pro-life leaders protest Boehner and not Ellmers?
See the WND video of pro-life protesters praying outside Boehner's office:
Stanek told WND they do object to Ellmers' proposed exception, but "the buck stops with Boehner."
"The bill wasn't properly shepherded through the House. He didn't do a proper whip count, and he pulled the rug out from the bill's supporters."
She called it a "critical" lapse in leadership because, despite Ellmers' objections, she said on Facebook that she would have voted for the bill as it was, meaning that other lawmakers sharing her concerns likely would have voted for it, too.
Stanek also said "there is no way" it should have taken two months to "carefully re-draft the legislation." She argued the identical bill had already passed when the GOP had an even smaller majority in the House.
WND asked Boehner's office for a comment on his handling of the bill.
"Congressman Boehner is 100 percent pro-life and, indeed, the most pro-life speaker in the history of the House," said Boehner's press secretary, Olivia Hnat.
"The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act remains an important priority for the pro-life majority that he leads in the House," she said.
Stanek was a registered nurse who was shocked to discover babies who had survived an abortion were left to die without medical care. She held a 21-week abortion survivor until he died. The baby would have been saved had a 20-week ban been in place, so the bill holds particular meaning.
She became a leading abortion opponent who has testified numerous times before Congress on the subject. She also runs a top-ranked pro-life blog.
Stanek told WND she does not question Boehner's pro-life beliefs but does question the GOP House leadership's pro-life convictions.
Were it a pro-abortion bill sponsored by Planned Parenthood, she said, Democrats would have handled it with kid gloves to ensure it went through the process smoothly to passage.
"Furthermore," she insisted, "Democrats would never have pulled a Planned Parenthood bill at the 11th hour, particularly after such fanfare, and on the eve of an important day, such as it was for pro-lifers, January 22, when hundreds of thousands were coming to D.C."
In addition, Stanek said, part of the job of a legislator is to promote legislation – educate the public – not just vote in favor of bills, which she thinks is sorely lacking.
Pro-life leaders were also upset that GOP leaders simply went silent after the bill was pulled.
Stanek told WND that Bohener hadn't said a word about the fate of the bill until the protest was announced and that the sit-in would be "a continuation of holding his feet to the fire."
On Wednesday morning, Stanek did say she had heard that just the threat of their protest was causing the GOP to get moving on the bill, after letting it linger in limbo.
The former nurse also explained pro-life objections to the exemption Ellmers is seeking, which would not require rape victims to report the crime to law enforcement before obtaining an abortion.
Stanek said she appreciates that the exception is meant to be sensitive to women who feel they're being forced to prove they were raped. However, she explained, supporters of the exception have not considered the consequences.
Rapists could go free if their crime goes unreported.
Also, "it would allow the abortionists a huge loophole."
"They can keep making big bucks off abortions if no evidence is required that the victim was raped," Stanek said. "It would allow abortionists to just to check a box stating a woman was raped in order to profit off her abortion."
Stanek also noted that pro-lifers did protest Ellmers on Jan. 22, "when she was relevant to the conversation."
As WND reported Tuesday, the sit-in event outside Boehner's office was dubbed #FreeTheBan.
Boehner has said the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act still "remains an important priority for our majority," but the sit-in leaders signed a letter explaining why pro-life leaders felt "betrayed" by GOP leadership.
"This life-saving legislation [was] withdrawn on the eve of the 2015 March for Life, when hundreds of thousands of Americans had come to Washington, D.C., to embrace human rights and equality for all, and we were promised it would be passed on January 22 [the anniversary of Roe v. Wade]," the letter to Boehner states.
"Just one day before scores would be marching in the harsh winter conditions of January, we were still being assured a vote would happen the next day. Imagine our further sense of betrayal that, almost two months later, no vote has been rescheduled for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
"I, for the most part, kept my silence, waiting … and waiting … and waiting for the GOP House leadership to circle back and fix their mess," Stanek elaborated in a blog post titled "Why I'm protesting Speaker Boehner's office on March 25." "The GOP must have mistaken our silence for indifference."
Newman told WND the stakes are so high it's worth the risk of civil disobedience.
"We have to implement a backbone policy for Mr. Boehner," Newman told WND. "It means we're serious. We're willing to take this to another level."
He noted it's been 42 years since abortion was decriminalized, and Congress now has the largest pro-life majority since then.
"We expect them to act," he said. "It's exactly why the voters put them there. It was in their platform, what they ran on."
Newman called the developments in Congress a "slap in the face of the pro-life movement."
"We want a whole lot more," he said. "We expect a whole lot from this Congress."
The GOP expanded its majority in the U.S. House during the 2014 midterm elections and took control of the Senate for the first time in years.
"It's something that cannot be ignored," Newman said. "This speaker is weak, his policies are weak, his plan for implementing pro-life legislation is weak."
He said if it becomes necessary, there may be future events at additional congressional offices.
Such civil disobedience has been used before by the pro-life movement. Some of the efforts by Joe Scheidler and the Pro-Life Action League were so effective in the 1980s that abortion advocates took them to court and accused them of racketeering.
It took 28 years and three trips to the U.S. Supreme Court to finish the case – a decision in which the pro-lifers' actions were vindicated entirely.
WND's original report on the Boehner sit-in included an interview with Stanek.
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Jill Stanek:
"When we protest on March 25, it will have been two months. We've been patient, more than measured in our response, more than muted. I, among others, am just not going to stand for this anymore," Stanek said.