Along with its grisly “truth truck,” the anti-abortion movement is bringing drama and infighting with it to the Democratic National Convention next week.
Two groups, both claiming the moniker “Operation Rescue,” will descend on the city to protest Barack Obama’s pro-choice stance. Problem is, one group plans for an in-your-face rally with an illegal sit-in ending in dozens of arrests while the other group wants a peaceful, prayerful demonstration.
Operation Rescue was founded in 1986 by famed anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, known for confronting women outside abortion clinics and throwing his body in front of health centers. Terry split with Operation Rescue more than a dozen years ago and went on to run unsuccessfully for Congress and initiate a career in country singing.
In the meantime, Troy Newman, who spearheaded an Operation Rescue affiliate in San Diego, took over the national organization and moved it to Wichita. But then Terry reappeared on the anti-abortion scene, claiming that Newman had engaged in “identity theft” by registering Operation Rescue with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office in Newman’s name in 2006. Last year, Terry filed suit against Newman.
Now, both men are planning Denver protests. True to his inflammatory style, Terry met with Denver Police on Wednesday afternoon and then told reporters that members of Operation Rescue planned on staging an illegal sit-in and getting arrested.
Terry says that the group will protest on Monday and Tuesday, but will not disclose the location. “I think we will have between 10 and 30 arrested,” he says. The group will also hand out 100,000 anti-Obama brochures at Catholic, evangelical Christian and black churches that support the Senator. One brochure describes a fictitious “candidate Smith” who “shares our values” on immigration, health care and taxes, but also supports slavery.
“There is no candidate Smith who supports slavery,” reads the brochure. “But if there was, would you betray your Christian faith to vote for him — even if you agreed on all the other issues? Or would the candidate’s support of slavery automatically disqualify him from holding office?
“Now; here is a test on ethics: Which is a worse crime: slavery or murder?” the brochure continues. “How can a Christian vote for a candidate that supports the murder of children by abortion?!”
Newman shudders at Terry’s literature, and views it as an affront to the Operation Rescue name. “I thought it was so incredibly racially insensitive I just couldn’t stomach reading it. That is how appalled I was,” he says. “We denounce any form of racial insensitivity, no matter where it rears its head. It will not be tolerated within our organization or in this movement.”
On Wednesday, Newman’s group sent out a press release decrying Terry’s use of the Operation Rescue name, which read “Mr. Terry has no authority whatsoever to imply, nor speak on behalf of, Operation Rescue.”
Terry, on the other hand, says that Newman insists on using the Operation Rescue name because the public still affiliates it with himself. “The long and the short of it is that Troy is using that name because people think they are dealing with me when they see that,” he says.
Even so, Newman says that his tactics during the DNC will differ significantly from Terry’s. “We pray that we won’t be arrested,” he says, “We want to distinguish ourselves from the anarchists, the Code Pink people, the Re-create 68 people who want to create havoc and chaos and disrupt the convention. That is not our intention. We are Christians who are praying for a positive change. You don’t do that by having your end goal as an arrest.”
Newman’s Operation Rescue, as well as other anti-abortion groups, have publicized their DNC protest plans, which begin with a demonstration at a Denver Planned Parenthood on Saturday. Newman plans to pass out literature in support of the Amendment 48 November ballot initiative that seeks to proffer rights to fertilized eggs.
Asked whether Newman is concerned that some of his Operation Rescue activists will accidentally rally with Terry and get arrested, he says, “I think that is Randall’s hope. But Randall has a long history within the pro-life movement. The activist part of the pro-life community is so well networked, there is no concern on my behalf that someone is going to show up at Mr. Terry’s function and think it is ours or someone else’s.”