This week, anti-choice extremists are protesting at a Birmingham clinic — the same clinic that was bombed by Eric Rudolph less than a decade ago. They’re also targeting a clinic in Wichita, Kansas — a clinic operated by Dr. George Tiller, a man who has been shot in both arms, stalked, and threatened by “pro-life” activists. His home address is published on “pro-life” websites so that anti-choice terrorists can find him and assassinate him like long-time “pro-life” activist James Kopp did to Barnett Slepian. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Tiller wears a bullet-proof vest to work and lives in a gated community with a strong security presence.
I wrote about this last week, but the protesters descended on Monday and are planning on sticking around until the 22nd, so I figure it’s worth another mention. The 1998 attack on New Woman, Every Woman Healthcare Clinic killed a police officer and seriously injured nurse Emily Lyons. Gloria Feldt describes Emily’s injuries:
In addition to sustaining first, second, and third degree burns covering the front of her body, Lyons lost her left eye and her right was seriously damaged. A hole the size of a fist was blown in her abdomen and her left leg was shattered—just for starters.
As I write this, “pro-lifers” are gathering to celebrate the work of a terrorist cop-killer. Of course, they’ll tell you that they aren’t the extremists, and they don’t support violence or harassment or stalking or any other illegal activity. They don’t back killers like Eric Rudolph or James Kopp.
Except that, well, they do.
Killers like James Kopp began their pro-life activism at clinic protests and blockades just like these. When Kopp was on the run after assassinating Slepian, he was aided by a whole team of “pro-life” activists who drove him around, housed him, and created false IDs for him. Other anti-choice terrorists have been similarly aided and shielded by “pro-lifers” across the country.
The current clinic protests are being held by Operation Save America, formerly known as Operation Rescue. And they are both hateful and dangerous. Their brochure reads, “Lord, make us dangerous.” Their founder, Randall Terry, told his followers, “I want you to let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good.”
It’s also worth taking a look at who led the protests. Mainstream conservative groups with access to the White House claim that they aren’t affiliated with anti-choice wackjobs; anti-choice wackjobs claim that they aren’t affiliated with the other anti-choice wackjobs who murder people and bomb buildings. In fact, they’re all a pretty close-knit bunch. Let’s take a look at who showed up in Wichita and Birmingham:
Rev. Rob Schenck
Schenck believes that the United States should substitute Biblical literalism for civil law. He studied under Frances Schaeffer, author of A Christian Manifesto. He’s been arrested half a dozen times for his actions at abortion clinics. He co-founded Operation Rescue with classmate Randall Terry. He staged protests at the home of Dr. Barnett Slepian. Not long after, Slepian was murdered by James Kopp — another student of Schaeffer’s, and a member of Schenck’s Operation Rescue.
And Schenck has friends in high (or formerly high) places — he counts John Ashcroft and Rick Santorum among his friends and confidantes. He leads the groups Faith and Action and the National Clergy Council. He recently made a trip to Darfur, returning just in time to join the anti-choice protests — and to remind us that Darfur is actually not so bad, and that “In fact, I’ll show that America’s abortion tragedy is in many ways worse than what’s happening in Darfur.” He also supports the Khartoum regime, which is accused of backing the ongoing genocide that has killed more than half a million people.
Newman is president of Operation Rescue. He stalks and harasses clinic workers on a regular basis. Please, please go read that article — it’ll give you a full idea as to how extreme Newman really is. Newman is the man behind the “Truth Truck,” the truck adorned with fake bloody fetus pictures that drives around as an opposition to abortion. Newman wrote a book called “Their Blood Cries Out” with Operation Rescue Vice President Cheryl Sullenger, who was convicted of conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic. In the book, he supports using Biblical law to execute abortion providers and women who have abortions. He has referred to convicted murderer Paul Jennings Hill as a “martyr.” He’s chummy with the Army of God guys — you know, the ones who promote violence against abortion providers, who maintain a list of abortion providers who should be killed, and who honor people like Paul Hill. He’s been arrested numerous times, most notoriously when he would hang over bathroom doors in order to preach to gay men (and by “preach” I mean “scream Bible verses”). He was arrested twice for his bathroom antics.
Versluys runs the group Survivors, which hosts an annual anti-choice “training camp.” And it’s hard to argue that they aren’t militant. In their own words:
Without a doubt, activism is the Survivors’ specialty – their forte. Like the United States Marine Corps, Survivors are first to the frontline of battle.
As warriors, where would the Marines be without their training? The Marine Corps boot camp is known as the most grueling and challenging in the world. Marines don’t always enjoy the difficult exercises and tasks, but not one would consider it all for nothing – especially when the day comes for them to use their training in combat.
It is no different for the Survivors, who often itch to be out of the classroom and onto the streets.
At Survivors Camp our objective is to equip young people with the necessary tools for effective pro-life activism – to equip them for battle.
She calls her group Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust.
The leader of Priests for Life, Pavone denies being friends with violent extremists, but admits that pro-choicers are right when we point out the blurry line between anti-choice extremists and supposedly mainstream anti-choicers: “They see in us a linkage between the extreme and mainstream. There is a truth there that they’re picking up on. We have always been a networking hub. The doors are open to everyone.” And he’s not worried about breaking the law:
What constitutes violence has long been a sticking point in the abortion debate. Unlike the National Right to Life Committee and many other pro-life groups, Pavone endorses clinic blockades—an illegal tactic that was popular in the 1980s and early 1990s, when Operation Rescue members were handcuffing themselves to clinic doors.
“We’re not talking about people rushing in and breaking windows and shooting guns,” Pavone explains. “We’re talking about a peaceful blockade of a facility where you end up being told to get out because you’re trespassing. Is it morally justifiable for these people to stay there? Yes.”
He also has strong ties to the Vatican. And he’s friendly with Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, appearing at events with him. Terry is the guy who said about abortion providers, “When I, or people like me, are running the country, you’d better flee, because we will find you, we will try you, and we’ll execute you. I mean every word of it.” He added, “I will make it part of my mission to see to it that they are tried and executed.”
Note that most of these “pro-life” leaders, like Pavone, Terry, Newman, etc are dudes. Well, according to Terry, that’s no coincidence:
“The greatest crisis we face is not child killing,” he declared, “it’s not the sodomites, it’s not land tax, it’s not the intrusion of the federal government into our lives, our families, as they crush our liberties. The greatest crisis we face tonight is a crisis of leadership. We are facing a crisis of righteous, courageous, physically oriented, male leadership. Male leadership!”
And it must be the men:
If we’re going to have true reformation in America, it is because men once again, if I may use a worn out expression, have righteous testosterone flowing through their veins. They are not afraid of contempt for their contemporaries. They are not even here to get along. They are here to take over…
Terry has a very clear vision of what his America looks like:
“Let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good…. If a Christian voted for Clinton, he sinned against God. It’s that simple…. Our goal is a Christian Nation… we have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want Pluralism. We want theocracy. Theocracy means God rules. I’ve got a hot flash. God rules.”
Pavone has been pretty clear about his views of the men who take anti-choice leadership: “…those that kill abortionists are pro-choice. For years the pro-choice side has been telling us that sometimes it’s OK to kill a person to solve a problem.”
But perhaps it’s unfair to associate Pavone with Terry. After all, Pavone only showed up to a few of the same events, right? I mean, it’s not like they’re friends, and it’s not like Pavone would back Terry up or anything… right?
Wrong. When Randall Terry ran for office in Florida, Pavone was right there behind him, calling the election “one of the most important in the nation” and exhorting his followers to support Terry:
From the Desk of Father Frank Pavone
One of the most important political races in the nation is happening in Your state Senate District in Florida – the race between pro-life champion Randall Terry, and your current State Senator, Jim King.
Dear friend of life,
I’m writing to earnestly solicit your help in one of the key pro-life battles facing us in this election cycle — the Republican primary — scheduled for September 5 — between challenger Randall Terry and incumbent State Senator Jim King.
Let me refresh your memory — Randall Terry has been on the front lines of the pro-life movement for over two decades — a nationally and internationally known pro-life leader.
Randall and I have worked on various projects together for over 15 years.
Jim King, on the other hand, is a firm supporter of Roe versus Wade — and he led the efforts to starve Terri Schiavo to death last year.
While Randall Terry and I were at the hospice,
Working side by side to save Terri from starvation…
Senator Jim King was working to starve Terri to death.
I am writing you as a private citizen, because I know you share my passion for life.
I know you want strong pro-life legislators in government as much as I do.
Frankly, you could not have a more proven and dedicated servant of life in office than Randall Terry.
I’m asking you to do three critical things in the cause of life:
1) Vote for Randall Terry. Early voting begins on August 21, and ends on September 2. The Republican primary is on September 5, the day after Labor Day.
Please vote for my friend Randall.
2) Volunteer for Randall’s campaign. I recently spent two days in the district, traveling from Daytona to Jacksonville, meeting with voters, and helping Randall put together an incredible volunteer team.
With the election soon upon us — there is much to be done — but this is absolutely a race that can be won by Randall. He just needs help from people like you.
3) Give to Randall’s Campaign. I am asking you to give is generously as you possibly can today to help Randall launch his final wave of advertisements, mailings, literature drops, and phone banks.
Randall must hear from you by August 27, so he can have the finances for the last week of the campaign.
Please rush your gift today!
I pray you will do all you are able for the cause of life,
Father Frank Pavone
Wright is President of Concerned Women for America — a supposedly mainstream Christian organization with a good degree of political influence. Interesting to see who she associates with, no?
In perusing video footage, I found several YouTube videos that are posted by someone who posts under the handle “cherylsullenger.” Cheryl Sullenger, who I mentioned above, spent more than two years in federal prison for conspiring to bomb a Southern California family planning clinic. As it turns out, Sullenger is still embraced by Operation Rescue — despite her history of violence. And Operation Rescue’s blog — often penned by Sullenger — is aggregated at ProLifeBlogs.com, the largest anti-choice blog community online.
It’s also worth noting the connection between white supremacist groups and anti-choice activism. It’s not a shock that almost all of the anti-choice leaders listed above — and most anti-choice leaders in general — are white men. People like Randall Terry are happy to admit that we need more male leadership. Other conservative extremists will cop to the white male supremacy undertones in the movement:
Absent a fundamental change in its leadership, the pro-life movement will always spawn radicals like James Kopp, who moved from sit-downs to a conviction that the “genocide” of abortion has to be stopped “at all cost.” Even if the movement’s leaders worked a mass renunciation of violence, however, it will always be burdened by new terrorists lurking in its branches.
One of them, apparently, was Eric Rudolph, the notorious fugitive wanted for the Birmingham bombing and three more in Atlanta, including the one at the 1996 Olympics. Rudolph’s grudge was nurtured in a commune of the white supremacist, neo-fascist Christian Identity movement, which his mother — who refused to take out a Social Security card — took him to when he was a teenager.
“They don’t give a damn about abortion,” Mike Vanderbaugh, a leader of the right-wing populist Alabama Militia, said of the Christian Identity movement in an interview last year. “If they were killing black babies in those clinics, they’d be all for it. But they’re mostly killing white babies, and people like Christian Identity think it’s hurting the race.”
These “pro-life” leaders are also almost uniformly anti-contraception. Some of them have strong ties to the Quiverfull movement — “quiverfull” being code for natalism (and “natalism” being code for “white supremacy”). The KKK itself is “pro-life” (warning: link to KKK website). Now, the KKK’s anti-choice view doesn’t mean that all anti-choicers are KKK members, but there are certainly some KKK members who are higher-ups in the anti-choice movement. And that’s… interesting. Especially since people like Joe Scheidler, leader of the Pro-Life Action Network (and friend of anti-choice activists Troy Newman and Frank Pavone), stay at his house when they go on out-of-state clinic assaults. Scheidler is no stranger to violence himself — his organization has orchestrated hundreds of violent and threatening crimes, he has called his group a “pro-life mafia,” he has stated that he will stop abortion using “any means necessary,” and he declared 1985 “a year of pain and fear” for women and doctors. And he meant it:
In 1998, a jury found that the Pro-Life Action League orchestrated 121 crimes involving acts or threats of unlawful force or violence:
–In Los Angeles, they beat a post-operative ovarian surgery patient over the head with their anti-abortion sign, knocking her unconscious and causing her to bleed from the sutures in her abdomen.
–In Atlanta, they seized a clinic administrator by the throat, choking and bruising her.
–In Pensacola, Florida, in March 1986: “Scheidler and other Pro-Life Action Network leaders were in town, staying at the home of John Burt, another anti-abortion activist. On the evening of March 25, Joe Scheidler, [admitted former KKK member] John Burt, Joan Andrews, and others discussed what form of Oprotest1 they would conduct at the clinic the next day. Several, including Joan Andrews, who was well-known for destroying medical equipment, agreed to invade the clinic the next morning. Scheidler also agreed to enter, if he thought he could do so without being arrested. Sure enough, the next day, John Burt, Joan Andrews and others invaded the clinic. They threw the clinic’s administrator down the stairs, injuring her badly; they shoved a NOW volunteer against a wall, causing her permanent injury; and they wrecked the medical equipment, putting the clinic out of business for several days. During the mayhem, Scheidler stood outside, handling press relations for his group. He praised those who went in and took credit for the invasion and property destruction.” [Testimony of NOW lawyer Fay Clayton, before the House Judiciary Committee]
“One method that has been used successfully to get an abortionist to cut down on his practice and even to swear off doing abortions is for a pro-lifer to make him a target for conversionSEfforts are made to get to know this abortionist’s family, his church affiliation, his memberships in professional organizations and clubs, and other facts about his lifestyle. Manifestation of this interest is always genuine, and persistent.”– Scheidler
“Several years ago we tracked down a twelve year-old girl who was going to have an abortion so that we could talk her out of it. Talking a woman out of having an abortion is not news. But tracking her down by using private detectives is.”–Scheidler
“You can try for 50 years to do it the nice way or you can do it next week the nasty way.”–Scheidler
He’s also a raging anti-Semite, misogynist and homophobe:
“We’re sick of reading letters from know-nothing feminists and their lackeys about how terrible it is to outlaw partial birth abortion. These people are nuts and evil and stupid. Other than that they’re just fine.”–Joe Scheidler
“The feminist movement of today has accepted the sexist idea that women have to be unburdened of children in order to achieve in a society built with the model of a childless male in mind.”–From “Abortion and Liberation” on the Pro-Life Action League’s Web Site
“Pro-aborts are terrified when a tiny, helpless unborn baby is given any value whatsoever. They must know
deep down somewhere that this tiny little person is inherently valuable and has the power to totally unravel the tower of lies that allows the liberal feminist and her allies to indulge their selfish lifestyles.”–Scheidler
“I think contraception is disgusting–people using each other for pleasure[and] for those who say I can1t impose my morality on others, I say just watch me.”–Scheidler
“I would like to outlaw contraception.”–Scheidler
“Planned Parenthood is the leading promoter of abortion and pre-marital sex, formerly known as fornication. They are largely responsible for the breakdown of the family, the increase in sexually transmitted diseases among teenagers and the huge numbers of abortions in this country and throughout the world.”–Scheidler
“We won’t be happy until there is no fornication and no abortion.”–Scheidler
“It’s dirty. It’s promoting lesbianism, masturbation and pedophilia.”–Scheidler, protesting a performance of the play, the Vagina Monolgues
“I’ve personally known too many converted and cured homosexuals to take the alibi seriously that they can’t change”–Joe Scheidler
“While I can see eye to eye with a black man or woman, can agree whole heartedly with a Jew or an Arab, feel perfectly at home with a dwarf, I would find it impossible to be at one with someone who hates Christ, mocks my religious beliefs or believes that homosexual marriage is just fine.–Scheidler
“I am uncomfortable with a rabid pro-abortionist, a pornographer, an atheist who believed my Catholic beliefs are false, and a flaming homosexual who believes in same sex marriage. Sorry, but that’s me and I’m not about to change.–Scheidler
“Just as I will never accept homosexuality, pornography or abortion as normal, I will not accept those who practice these perversions as normal or people to be cultivated, until they change. I know wonderful people who have fought all these perversions and who I count among my best friends.”–Scheidler
“Some really unhappy Jewish people who possibly suspect that they missed the boat and are in the wrong church, don’t want to be reminded that the majority of the world has accepted the true Messiah and they didn’t and they still don’t want to acknowledge that they’re wrong. Christ came to his own and His own received him not and they still don’t receive him and it just eats at them.”–Joe Scheidler
The anti-choice activists organizing these events are more interconnected and more powerful than many of us would like to think — they have the ear of the White House and of the Vatican. They’re bold enough to target clinics that have seen murders, attempted murders, bombings, and arsons — and then they’re slimy enough to claim that they have nothing to do with the ongoing violence against abortion providers.
They’re flocking to Wichita and Birmingham this week. They’re claiming that they aren’t violent, that they’re just interested in “saving babies” and “counseling women.” They’re saying that they aren’t extremists, and they don’t associate with extremists. They’re lying.
- Dr. Tiller’s Clinic Will Remain Closed by Cara June 9, 2009
- Kansas AG’s harassment of an abortion provider fails again by Jill December 26, 2006
- Violence-Abetting Anti-Choice Fanatics: Now in Congress by Jill June 19, 2009
- “Pro-Life” groups to honor murderers by Jill June 20, 2007
- Hello Birmingham by Jill July 6, 2007