Randall Terry, 12 Followers Arrested Outside Pepsi Center

Wendy Norris

The AP is reporting three incidents Tuesday involving anti-abortion protesters raising cain at the DNC.

The AP is reporting three incidents Tuesday involving anti-abortion
protesters raising cain — one event resulting in arrests outside the
Pepsi Center, a picket of an Emily’s List event and another where
Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies responded to heat-stressed
individuals on a mountain mesa west of Denver after they unfurled a
666-foot banner on the hillside (um, no religious symbolism there).

Notorious Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, who split with the
organization and now leads a loose cluster of rabble-rousers, predicted
they would be arrested for staging a planned, but illegal, sit-in
during the Democratic National Convention in Denver this week.

And true to form, Terry and 12 followers were arrested by 50
officers in riot gear outside the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver for
blocking an entrance after being warned three times to disperse. As he
was led away to a paddy wagon, a handcuffed Terry shouted “Don’t vote
for Obama” at DNC delegates and members of the press entering the
convention hall.

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California blogger Dave Winer documented the stand-off at Scripting.com.

Last weekend, Terry distributed hundreds of racist fliers
at a DNC media party touting a fictitious “Candidate Smith,” proposing
“real solutions for the ‘Negro problem’” as a shocking metaphor for
Christian voters who support pro-choice but otherwise conservative
political candidates.

The Colorado Independent reported a schism that has developed between Terry and Troy Newman,
the leader of Operation Rescue West, a group that arose from Terry’s
original group and that also engages in inflammatory picketing of
women’s clinics.

Simultaneous to the sit-in, another dozen anti-abortion
demonstrators rallied outside the Sheraton Hotel in Denver, where
Emily’s List was holding an event featuring Sen. Hillary Clinton and
others to back women candidates who support reproductive freedom.

Earlier Tuesday, supporters of American Right to Life Action
unfurled a enormous banner that read “Destroys uNborn Children” —
highlighting the DNC in the phrase — on a nearby hillside that the
group claimed was visible in Denver, 10 miles away.

The banner, made of approximately 2,400 queen-sized bedsheets,
remained on the mesa for three hours until Jefferson County law
enforcement officials ordered its removal. While several members of the
group scrambled back up the hillside to take down the sign, police
tended to others who reportedly suffered heat exhaustion carrying the
2,700-pound banner.

American RTL
was established in Denver in Nov. 2007 to aggressively usurp the
national status of National Right to Life as the primary leader within
the anti-abortion movement.

One of its primary thrusts is to challenge the “wicked courts” and oppose “child-killing regulations” through state-based laws attempting to overturn Roe v Wade, according to its Web site. The group is actively involved in Amendment 48, a proposed constitutional measure on the November ballot in Colorado to proffer due process rights on fertilized human eggs.

STOKING FIRE: Randall Terry’s Campaign Platform

Eleanor J. Bader

Randall Terry is running for president specifically against Barack Obama. Not surprisingly, making abortion illegal is the pivot around which Terry’s candidacy spins.

Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry doesn’t believe prayer is enough to end abortion in the U.S. He believes in action.  A 1981 graduate of the unaccredited Elim Bible College, in 1985 he and then-wife Cindy Dean Terry began demonstrating outside Southern Tier Women’s Services in Vestal, New York.  In short order the pair escalated their protests to include a range of disruptive tactics, from blockading the building’s entrance to shouting so loudly that their taunts could be heard in the health center’s operating room.

For a short time—from the late 1980s and early 1990s—the “rescue” movement grew quickly and caused havoc at clinics throughout the country. Then, in 1994, after passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, it sputtered. Nonetheless, before it ended thousands of rescuers had been arrested, giving Terry the notoriety he continues to crave.

Indeed, in his quest for attention, Terry has proven himself to be a master of re-invention and both his personal and career lives have taken many turns. As a professional, he’s been a car salesman, a gospel and country singer, and a community organizer. He’s also morphed from fundamentalist Protestant to Roman Catholic. And now, the Tea Party activist and lifelong Republican has switched again, declaring himself a Democratic contender in 2012’s presidential race. “I don’t want to quibble with Palin, Huckabee, or Romney,” the 51-year-old told me by phone. “I want to throw body punches at Barack Obama.”

“Obama is the Massa and we’re his slave labor force,” Terry continues. “My platform respects life and liberty.”

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Not surprisingly, making abortion illegal is the pivot around which Terry’s candidacy spins. At the same time, Catholic.org reports that his platform not only “affirms life, [but also] marriage between a man and a woman only.” Furthermore, his “unabashedly theocentric campaign” is deeply critical of Islam and his voice becomes noticeably louder as he describes the threat he believes Muslims pose to Western values and culture. “I’ve spent my whole life fighting against abortion, but if I had to choose between living in a Christian nation that kills its babies or a Muslim nation under Sharia law, I’d choose the former,” he told me. As for foreign policy, Terry says that he supports non-intervention. “We shouldn’t be in Iraq and  Afghanistan should have been a short war of reprisal,” he says.

Terry declared his candidacy in front of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC—yes, he repeatedly likens the Nazi holocaust to abortion–and he is presently working to raise $2.5 million to run a 30-second ad during next year’s Super Bowl, complete with the kind of graphic, bloody, anti-abortion footage that just about everyone in the western world has already seen.  “Legalized child killing is the greatest abomination on the face of the earth,” the Randall Terry for President website declares. His hope is that by exposing millions of football fans to grisly pictures of dismembered fetuses, people will clamor for overturning Roe, prime time be damned. “It is high time we act like [abortion] is the holocaust it is,” he blasts. 

Rabbi Yehuda Levin of the Rabbinical Alliance of America and Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life are among the few anti-abortion activists in Terry’s corner. In fact, in his two-and-a-half decades on the anti-abortion frontlines Terry has garnered many detractors, people who are leery of his tendency to jump into the limelight wherever, however, and whenever possible. 

Revelations about Terry’s personal foibles have also given many anti-abortion activists pause. Take what happened after Rev. Dan Little of the Landmark Church of Binghamton, New York censured, and then in 2005 expelled, Terry for ending his 19-year marriage. Despite belonging to Landmark for more than 15 years, Terry seemingly took his excommunication in stride, as if the action was simply the opening of a new door in his spiritual life. According to numerous news accounts, after being booted, Terry first checked out a charismatic Episcopal church but quickly turned to Roman Catholicism and converted in May 2006. The National Catholic Register reports that the newly divorced Terry made this move after announcing—but never explaining–that his marriage to Cindy had been “an invalid sacrament.”

Whatever his spin, it is worth noting that the long liaison between Randall and Cindy included the birth of a daughter in 1987. It also included the adoption of three young children. Nonetheless, once the dust of his first marriage had cleared, Terry wed again. Andrea Sue Kellmorgan, his former assistant—a woman 17 years his junior–became the second Mrs. Terry several years ago.

Scuttlebutt notwithstanding, Terry seems unaffected by critics and is instead focused on challenging Obama. Does he really think he has a shot?  Alas, even he is not that delusional. At the same time, Terry is hoping that his candidacy will provoke what he calls a “crisis of faith for pro-life Democrats.” He intends to bring his campaign to New Hampshire, Florida, and North Carolina, and in an interview on eyeblast.tv quipped that “the Tea Party train is now on Democratic tracks.”

As for the Democratic National Committee, it’s doubtful that they’re feeling much heat from Terry’s campaign. Although the DNC did not respond to my calls or emails, one can only assume that they’re expecting a quick and complete derailment.

Anti-Abortion Activists Push New, More Radical Egg-As-Person Measures

Wendy Norris

A resurgent movement to place "personhood" measures on state ballots across the nation to ban abortion and comprehensive reproductive care could have far sweeping implications.

Wendy Norris is a freelance writer from Denver, Colorado. Her work can also be read at the public policy blog, Unbossed.com.  She will be covering the "egg-as-person" movement for Rewire in the coming months.  

Other posts on on this issue today include a piece by Lynn Paltrow, and this cartoon.  A list of past articles on this issue can be found at the end of this post.

DENVER – A resurgent movement to place
"personhood" measures on state ballots across the nation to ban
abortion and comprehensive reproductive care could have far more sweeping
implications than the trial balloon Colorado voters soundly defeated last year.

Far from being dissuaded by the 3-to-1 loss from their 2008
campaign to confer zygotes with legal rights, abortion opponents are regrouping
with a broader initiative that purports to address life span issues, from
conception to death.

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The proposed 2010 constitutional ballot language – "the
term ‘person’ shall apply to every human being from the beginning of the
biological development of that human being" – was submitted Thursday for initial
review by the Colorado Legislative Council.

The new tack avoids previous efforts to redefine person as
"any human being from the moment of
fertilization" – phrasing that rankled even its supporters as too
polarizing.

Shaded beneath the state capitol’s famed golden dome and
cradling his 10-day-old son, Gualberto Garcia Jones, 31, said announcing the
new campaign:

"And the important thing to
keep in mind, if you honestly and unbiasedly read the language – this is about
the full spectrum of human development. It includes the very early stages.

But it’s also about children who
are born with disabilities and are stripped of their personhood. It’s about
handicapped people who are stripped of their personhood. It’s about the elderly
that are dying and who lose their personhood when they go into some form of a
vegetative state."

When asked how such a wide-ranging law could be implemented,
Jones, a lawyer and former legislative analyst for the anti-abortion group,
American Life League, said:

"We’ll leave it to the courts
to interpret the language of the proposed amendment … We have faith that our
legislators will be able to implement this in a consistent manner with respect
for all human beings regardless of how they come about in their creation."

Last year’s ballot opponents claimed that adding a
religiously-inspired definition to the Colorado constitution would affect
more than 20,000 references to the term "person" in local and state
statutes
.

 

A new,
all-encompassing "personhood" strategy

This new hard-line rhetorical stance is a radically
different approach than the 2008 campaign, headed by Peyton, Colo., resident
Kristi Burton, a telegenic online law school student, who furiously back-peddled
from controversial early campaign statements that Amendment 48 sought to
outright ban abortion and contraception
.

Now, all bets are off. The new campaign leadership assured
supporters that Burton will advise the team but her "muddled"
communication goals won’t be repeated.

Jones, a conservative Catholic, said he welcomed a debate
about a contraception ban as an effect of the personhood cause:

"What this amendment does is
protect all human beings," he said. "Something that is erroneously
referred to as contraception causes the early human to die because they cannot
develop in the uterus. And, then yeah, this would prohibit it. We’re more than
happy to talk about that."

The conflation of contraception with abortifacients is a
well-used tactic by those who oppose abortion under all circumstances.

Combining the orthodoxy of hard-line opposition to
comprehensive reproductive care with controversial end-of-life issues is a new
strategy in the "personhood" movement that could be designed to
appeal to the fast-growing voting bloc of religious Hispanics, whom Jones, a
native of Spain, expressed particular interest in reaching out to.

The new strategic approach also appears to stem from a
chance encounter amidst the spectacle of one family’s personal tragedy turned
national political sideshow.

Jones met long-time Colorado Right to Life activist Leslie
Hanks in March 2005 while protesting at the Florida hospice where Terri
Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman at the center of a fierce right-to-die court
battle, re-ignited the social conservative movement.

Jones and Hanks struck up a friendship. Later, he moved to
Denver after leaving ALL to work on a 2006 South Dakota abortion ban campaign
and then a low-profile campaign job to help Burton pass Amendment 48. While Hanks
had a prominent public role, opponents of the 2008 effort do not recall seeing
Jones on the stump until now.

 

Absolutist
anti-abortion groups join forces

The 2010 campaign will be backed by Personhood USA, a new
national nonprofit organization formed from the ashes of Burton’s Colorado for
Equal Rights, whose supporters were linked to militant anti-abortion groups,
like the Army of God
.

The Denver-based Personhood USA is headed by former Wichita resident and ex-Operation Rescue "truth
truck" driver Keith Mason, and Michigan
anti-abortion activist Cal Zastrow. Veterans of the failed Colorado campaign,
the two men most recently were involved in the unsuccessful 2008 South Dakota
citizen-initiated abortion ban and failed legislative actions in Montana and
North Dakota earlier this spring.

Now they have plans to deploy platoons of
"personhood" activists in 17 states to effectively ban abortion,
oral/device contraception, in vitro fertilization, and embryonic stem cell
research should they prevail to win civil rights for fertilized eggs. And if
Jones’ press briefing comments are any indication, they may take on disability
advocacy groups and the burgeoning end-of-life care movement, as well.

In addition to Colorado, a 2010 "personhood"
initiative in Montana was launched July 1
under the same auspices of broader
language
though the speech-making to introduce the campaign did not use the
same anti-contraception and life span rhetorical flourishes employed by Jones.

 

Schisms continue over
religious support for "personhood" and litmus tests

Mason noted that the local campaign counts among its
supporters Jones’ former employer, the American Life League, and Hanks’ group Colorado
Right to Life, whose long-standing feud with Focus on the Family founder James
Dobson
for not being anti-abortion enough is the stuff of local legend.
Jones will head the Colorado affiliate of Personhood USA.

Mason dismissed any lingering flack between Focus and American
Right to Life Action, another backer of "personhood" strategies, whose members
were arrested
and jailed after failing to pay a trespassing fine following
the group’s Sept. 4 sit-in protest at the evangelical Christian ministry and
publishing empire’s Colorado Springs headquarters. He anticipates Focus will
again be on board with the new campaign. "They’re bigger than that,"
he said "They’ll do the right thing."

But not everyone in the faith community is enthusiastic
about the proposal and some will continue to oppose it.

The Colorado Catholic Conference refused to endorse the
2008 measure
over concerns about "the timing and content." A
spokeswoman for the state’s three Catholic bishops, well-known for their
conservative social stances and willingness to insert themselves into political
controversy, told the Denver Post that Amendment 48 backers "seriously
misrepresented" the church
, contradicting campaign claims that the
bishops officially supported the cause.

Jeremy Shaver, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance
of Colorado which participated in the "No on 48" campaign
unequivocally stated his group’s opposition to the renewed
"personhood" effort:

"My
understanding of what they’re trying to do is insert a particular religious
definition of life in the state constitution," said Shaver. "Many
people of faith don’t believe state law should be based on religious doctrine
or religious belief. We need to base our state law on what’s in the interest of
the common good.

"We
believe it’s a violation of religious freedom for all Coloradans and it’s a
danger to do so."

Shaver said he is especially troubled by the new life span
argument:

"End of life decisions are
also among the most personal decisions that we will make. Those decisions need
to be made personally by individuals and their families and cannot and should
not be made for us by politicians who seek to impose a religious agenda."

Unflagged, the "personhood" proponents soldier on
while its advocates continue to grapple with the practicalities of the cause.

In a telling 2008 Q&A exchange, on the conservative
religious television network EWTN Kids Web page, the American Life League’s
Judie Brown admits the legal murkiness of "personhood"
to a
reader questioning whether to impose capital felony sentences on abortion
providers and women patients or merely misdemeanor penalties:

Once
personhood is restored to all human beings prior to birth, we will have to wade
through the minefield of criminal penalties and how they should be applied …
Gualberto Garcia Jones points out, "Criminal law is almost always about
knowledge."