God Answers Decades of Prayer: The Closure of Portland’s Lovejoy Abortion Clinic

Interview by Stephanie Anderson, EPM staff
(with special thanks to Ron Norquist for contributing the introduction)

It’s just a small, unassuming medical building nestled in an older residential part of Portland, Oregon. Commuters who stopped for seconds at the blinking light on the corner of NE 25th and Lovejoy Street barely noticed the sparsely landscaped Lovejoy SurgiCenter. But over the years, tens of thousands of women approached the front steps to the clinic, where a pregnant woman could become “un-pregnant.”

In the past, this sleepy corner has been alive with action: people holding signs, little pockets of prayer, sidewalk counselors asking the women to consider other options, often directing them to local pregnancy care centers. One man, Doc Hite, would show up almost daily for many hours even into his late 90s, holding a sign and offering help. When asked why he would do so at his age he simply said, “These are babies.”

In the late 1980s and early 90s a small ministry called Advocates for Life brought groups of volunteers to peacefully block access to the clinic by sitting in front of the doors. Two of those volunteers were Randy Alcorn and myself, Ron Norquist. On those days, the corner of 25th and Lovejoy was a busy one: there were police cars, handcuffed prolifers being dragged into waiting police vans, frustrated clinic workers who wanted to get on with their business, and women waiting for the doors to clear so they could get their abortion procedure. The invisible ones were the pre-born children carried by their mothers into that place of death.

For years prolife advocates prayed that God would do what they couldn’t: close it down. They waited and trusted and advocated for those who had no voice.

Then came word in January 2021 that after fifty years, Lovejoy was shutting its doors, ending its business as the largest abortion clinic in the State of Oregon. Local prolifers rejoiced, but their feelings remain mixed. Demand still exists, and in March, an abortion facility under the name The Lilith Clinic opened in downtown Portland and advertises abortions up to 22 weeks. Still, prolifers thank and praise the Author of Life, Jesus Christ, for hearing His people’s prayers that the building at 25th and Lovejoy would no longer house such evil.

In this interview, Randy Alcorn and Kathy Norquist, Ron’s wife, respond to the closure:

Tell us about your personal history with Lovejoy SurgiCenter.

Randy: In 1988 I visited Lovejoy, perhaps the world’s most ironically named abortion clinic, for the first time. I had never been to an abortion clinic, and I didn’t even know where any were located. In December of that year, I attended an Advocates for Life meeting where I was exposed to the idea of civil disobedience to rescue the unborn. They had a rescue scheduled at Lovejoy in January 1989. With some reluctance, I went to my fellow church elders and explained why I believed God was leading me to do this. I asked their permission, and to their credit, while some of them didn’t really know whether it was the right decision, they all said that since I believed this action was biblically right and both my conscience and the Holy Spirit were leading me to do it, they could only support me. I also told Ron Norquist about it and to my surprise and great encouragement, he wanted to join me in participating. Since I didn’t know any other volunteers well, to have a longtime friend come was a huge help. I no longer felt as profoundly alone.

A rescueI rescued nine times in 1989 and was arrested seven times, each time taken to jail and placed in a holding cell, a large room on lockdown also occupied by others arrested for nonviolent crimes. I had many interesting conversations and opportunities to share the gospel. Nanci did sidewalk counseling at Lovejoy for several years, approaching women who came to the clinic for abortions, and giving them one last opportunity to see the truth and rescue their unborn children. That was a much tougher job. It was hard for her, but I admired her for doing what we both believed was right. (See Why We Rescued.)

In early 1990 another abortion clinic, called the Downtown Women’s Clinic, won a court judgment against me and several other rescuers. The court demanded we pay the full amount for their loss of income from the dozen or so abortions we had prevented one day. This amount was less than $3,000, but we were also held liable for their attorney expenses which were nearly $20,000. Later I was summoned to court for refusing to pay this. I told the judge that as a matter of conscience I would pay anybody anything I owed them, but one thing I would never do was hand over money to people who would use it to kill babies.

The judge sentenced me to two days (one night) in jail for refusing to pay the fine. I was handcuffed with what is called a belly chain that went around my waist, to which my hands and ankles were also cuffed, and then led out of the courtroom by two armed police officers who escorted me to the county jail. That’s when photojournalists still used flash photography, so my eyes were blinded. Local television news was lined up to cover this spectacle of a pastor chained to the teeth.

Since I still refused to pay the fines, on the first Saturday of May 1990, I was served papers informing me that the church I pastored was receiving a writ of garnishment demanding they send a fourth of my wages each month to the Downtown Clinic. In God’s providence, Saturday was the only day of the week where no one was present on the church grounds to receive that writ. Since they didn’t serve writs on Sunday, that meant I knew two days before the church did that the writ of garnishment would be delivered to them on Monday. This was a great blessing because it allowed me to call a special meeting of the elders on Sunday, where I resigned as pastor to keep my church from having to either pay an abortion clinic or defy a court order. The church was able to disburse my last paycheck, so they could honestly say the next day I wasn’t their employee, and they owed me no wages that could be garnished.

Later in 1990, shortly after we started EPM, Frank Peretti and his wife Barb spent a weekend at our house when he was researching his next novel after This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. He wanted the story to center around abortion. After a meeting in our living room with women who had experienced abortions and were now regularly involved in ministry at Lovejoy, I took Frank to see it. I told him stories as we stood across the street from the building. There was a New-Agey “altar” in front of one of the homes nearby, and the owners had placed on it an offering, some kind of fresh meat that we couldn’t identify. The spirit of darkness surrounding this place that was so familiar to me by then was immediately evident to Frank.

As we stood there, the clinic owner, who I had come to know well, drove up in her luxury car and entered the building. I won’t describe what she looked like, but let’s just say it was evil. In his novel Prophet, Frank used Lovejoy as the basis for the abortion clinic that is a significant part of his story. He portrays the web of deception and complicity surrounding legal abortion and its exploitation of both women and the church.

In real life and in Frank’s book, family members, doctors, the media, and political figures all have vested interests in covering up the dangers of abortion. In fact, six weeks after finishing the first edition of my book ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments, I attended the funeral of a woman who died at a nearby hospital after “treatment” at Lovejoy. There was no media coverage indicating the place of her surgery or her cause of death.

In February 1991, nine months after I had to resign from the church, we were set for a major courtroom trial that had been looming over us for a year, Lovejoy SurgiCenter v. Portland, Oregon ProLifers. The time came for the judge, who had been overtly hostile toward us during the trial, to give his last instructions to the jury before sending them away for deliberations. His final words were, “You must find these people guilty and you must punish them sufficiently to insure they’ll never do this again.” For our totally peaceful nonviolent actions, the jury awarded the abortion clinic $8.2 million dollars. (At the time it was the largest court judgment in history against a group of peaceful protestors.)

While we were in this thirty-day trial, several amazing things happened. Three Lovejoy employees quit. One explained to a prolife protester outside, “I don’t know what happened. It’s like I suddenly woke up and realized we’re killing babies here. That’s not what I want to do with my life.”

What others intended for evil, God intended for good (Genesis 50:20). Much of what I wrote about the beginnings of EPM involves Lovejoy.

(Our attorney in the month-long Lovejoy lawsuit asked me to prepare closing arguments. It might speak to your heart as a resource to reflect on as our culture leaves less and less room for the exercise of Christian convictions.)

Kathy: Ron was arrested multiple times for rescuing, mostly at Lovejoy clinic, and spent seven months over a one-year period in jail and lost his job as a result. He then had a jail ministry and to this day is still good friends with one of the guys he met in jail.

Ron was not always prolife and can remember debating with his brother Rick about abortion when he was in high school. But when our firstborn son was stillborn in 1976, that solidified in his heart the humanity of the preborn child. So years later when Ron heard about rescuing through Randy, he immediately wanted to join him. That decision changed our family’s life, but God was faithful beyond what we could have ever asked for.

I (Kathy) spent many times over the years down at Lovejoy alongside other dear friends praying, holding signs, and reaching out to the women and men going into the clinic. There were numerous opportunities to share the love of Christ and His message of salvation. My experience at the clinic forced me out of my comfort zone. I often didn’t look forward to going but always left there strengthened with a sense of privilege to stand for Christ and be a light in the darkness. The heaviest drive I made was to Lovejoy and the lightest drive was away from Lovejoy. The relief in leaving was sometimes accompanied by sadness as there was often no one to take our place.

During the year that Ron was in and out of jail and our family was in the news, I felt like we were living in a fishbowl. It was difficult to have people see your husband as “the abortion guy,” as though that was our whole life. But throughout that stressful and trying time, God was at work. I wouldn’t trade those years for anything because God was with us, and He used it all for His good purposes.

What has changed in the prolife movement in the 30+ years since you were first involved with rescuing and sidewalk counseling? What is the same?

Kathy: Rescuing has become a thing of the past for several reasons, but sidewalk counseling has remained. I think God used rescuing and the publicity that resulted to awaken hearts to stand more boldly for life. There are thousands of pregnancy resource centers as well as many other dynamic prolife ministries so the work is still going strong. But there is an ongoing need to have a presence at the clinics, quietly praying and/or holding a sign or reaching out to those going in.

Randy: Now there are many more prolife clinics and prolife volunteers than in those early days. There are many more churches that support those clinics. The political prolife arms, such as Oregon Right to Life, continue their faithful efforts.

However, precious innocent children are still being killed daily, men are still failing to defend and care for the children they’ve fathered, and women are still being deceived into believing that abortion can solve their problems. The truth is, it is never—absolutely never—in a mom or dad’s best interest to kill their child.

What is missing is the regular presence at abortion clinics in large numbers, which drew attention to the fact that children are being killed every day at every abortion clinic. Sidewalk counseling done by some faithful people continues. That’s wonderful. We rescued until the cost of rescuing became so high that it prevented us from doing much else. Ron Norquist paid that high price more than anyone, and I will always respect Ron and Kathy deeply for that.

In my case, I could both live with my wife and young daughters and do a lot for unborn children by speaking out on their behalf and writing books to equip people to defend them. (My 1992 book ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments was a surprise best-seller, and has been used, now in an updated form, to train prolifers for nearly thirty years. Our ministry also gives substantial funds from my book royalties to support the prolife cause.)

What role do you think prolife advocacy and prayer played in the clinic’s closure?

Prolifers prayKathy: God truly answered the prayers of His people! Some dear people spent several days a week advocating at the clinic. Year after year many of us prayed for something that seemed impossible—the closing of Lovejoy clinic—but “with God all things are possible.” When you are standing right next to it, watching women go in and then come out in wheelchairs, it is heart wrenching. I know He used all of the advocates in ways we will never know this side of eternity.

Randy: Lovejoy, where such darkness prevailed, was like the temples where children were sacrificed to Molech in ancient times. I absolutely believe the prayers and actions of faithful people, many people far more faithful than I, were used of God to pull down a heathen child-killing idol.

Certainly there is great spiritual warfare associated with the issue of abortion. It has now been years since Nanci or I have been to that dark and demonic place. I remember a peaceful prolife gathering there when we and our daughters stood across the street from Lovejoy holding up three large beautiful photographs of live unborn children—not aborted babies—one in each trimester of pregnancy. A limo slowly drove around the corner, and the man in the passenger seat looked at us with obvious scorn and made an obscene gesture. 

That man, believe it or not, was immediately recognizable as the mayor of Portland. As a dad, part of me wanted to go after him for having done that to my wife and little girls. Trying to explain who he was to our daughters put a heaviness on our hearts. How could the most powerful and influential person in the city of Portland be so dedicated to the killing of unborn children and make a vile gesture to born children? Only under the influence of Satan. Jesus said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

What were your emotions and thoughts when you heard about the closure?

Randy: I cried for joy. I thought, “On this wicked corner where tens of thousands of babies have died, Satan will no longer be murdering children.” The single largest abortion clinic in the state of Oregon, responsible for killing more children than anywhere else in our state’s history, no longer existed. If ever setting off fireworks was warranted, that was the occasion!

Kathy: I felt like crying my eyes out. I was overjoyed and could hardly believe it! Just the building itself represents so much evil. To think that it will no longer be the place where babies are being sucked out of their mother’s wombs, and women are being deceived into thinking they are no longer mothers, makes me so happy. My heart has always been with the many women I know and love who have had abortions and the pain they have lived with. I didn’t want other women to have to go through what they did, so I’m overjoyed that Lovejoy will no longer be an option! I still can’t believe it.

What is your prayer for the city of Portland and for the local prolife movement moving forward?

Randy: My prayer is that prolifers will be patient, realizing that despite laws and the policies of a given administration, no one can prevent us from sharing our prolife values and helping women in need. You can talk to the sixteen-year-old girl next door, and you can give a book like ProChoice or ProLife? to kids in the church youth group. You can offer childcare and financial aid to help moms choose life and raise their children or place them for adoption.

Kathy: I would love to see the Lovejoy building destroyed and a life-giving ministry take its place. That would be incredible!

The news about the new Lilith Clinic is certainly discouraging. Portland Monthly reports, “Its location in a multi-use downtown office building could also help deter protesters; the Lovejoy SurgiCenter was located on a highly visible corner in Northwest Portland.”

My prayer has been that God would raise up younger women to advocate outside of abortion clinics. It is a last-ditch effort to save a baby’s life and help the mom. What kept me going back to the clinic was hearing the story of a pastor counseling a young woman who had previously had an abortion. He asked her what she would have done if someone was outside the clinic standing for life when she drove up. She said, “I told myself on the way to the clinic that if anyone was outside, I’d keep driving and not go through with the abortion.” Sadly, no one was there.

40 Days for Life is a wonderful prolife ministry that organizes a peaceful prayer presence at the clinics. There is a great need for more people, and it makes a huge difference.

What is your advice to prolife advocates today?

Randy: Find your place and learn what your gifting is and where you can best serve Jesus and the cause of women in need and unborn children. Love your fellow prolifers and respect their different callings. Resist the turf-consciousness that inhibits cooperative action and therefore contributes to the very killing we are trying to stop. We must end needless duplication of efforts in the same communities and learn from the experience and expertise of others. We must hold loosely our volunteers and donors and not fear losing them to other groups working for the same cause. We must set aside some of our personal agendas and realize that we can accomplish a great deal more if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit as long as God gets the glory.

Prolife advocatesThere are a variety of legitimate prolife activities. The Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and their special forces all have their role in winning a war, but without strategy and cooperation, they would end up wasting resources. Likewise, there’s an important place for abortion alternative centers, prolife education, literature distribution, sidewalk counseling, picketing, boycotts, political action, Life Chain, and many other activities. But each of these is to serve the whole, not as “the” prolife effort but one working in concert with the others. If one of us wins, we all win; if one loses, we all lose. Without mutual respect and cooperation, prolife organizations will get caught in each other’s crossfire, and we’ll end up fighting the wrong side.

We must work harder and smarter, ever broadening the base of prolife activists, not just burning out a few. All our efforts need to be harnessed as part of a strategic long-term plan to save the most children and women from abortion. At the heart of this must be the mobilization of whole churches, not just individual Christians. Only churches can provide the numbers and resources needed to win the battle for children’s lives. Churches must be helped to form prolife task forces to educate and mobilize their people and make community impact. There are many excellent groups and resources, including books and videos.

Kathy: Never give up! Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” God is doing so many things behind the scenes that we won’t know about until we get to Heaven. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” The unborn are true orphans when their mothers and fathers want to abandon them.

I have great respect for those in prolife work, and we should do all we can to encourage them with our prayers and financial support. There is such a darkness and deception surrounding abortion, and it isn’t an easy ministry. Satan is a “liar and a murderer” and doesn’t like people standing up for life and truth. Yet the darker it gets, the brighter the light of Jesus can shine, and what joy that light brings!

Browse more prolife articles and resources, as well as see Randy's books Pro-Choice or Pro-Life: Examining 15 Pro-Choice ClaimsWhy ProLife? and ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments.