Randall Terry, one of the best-known abortion opponents in the U.S., launched a new version of Operation Rescue this weekend, calling on activists from across the country to press on despite bad publicity over the May 31 slaying of abortion doctor George Tiller.
Forty-five people from 16 cities met at the Crystal City Doubletree hotel Saturday for a hastily arranged “emergency pro-life training conference” to recruit more foot soldiers in the battle against abortion.
“The freeing moment will come when you decide to take a bullet for this movement,” Mr. Terry said in a small ballroom watched over by one security guard. “Then you can’t be bullied and intimidated into silence anymore.”
Mr. Terry has renamed his movement Operation Rescue Insurrecta Nex - the latter two words meaning ‘insurrection against death’ in Latin - and is trolling for new affiliates.
“My mission is to raise up a new generation,” he said, “to recruit them, train them and unleash them.”
He brushes off criticism that activists like him created a climate that goaded the suspect in Dr. Tiller’s slaying into action.
“You can’t work with me if you can’t say abortion is murder and child-killers are murderers,” he said. “You’ve got to be prepared to take the heat over those words. The true terrorists are those who reach into a woman’s womb and kill her child.”
His opponents “refuse to admit that abortion is the cauldron from which evil flows,” he added. “George Tiller reaped what he sowed. He was a murderer.”
Energized Friday night with speeches by pro-life activists Alan Keyes and Norma McCorvey, conferees watched a four-part film series Saturday on pro-life activism.
Abby Glackin, a member of Mother Seton Catholic Church in Germantown, stashed away four “student guide” training manuals to pass around to church members.
“I’ve talked a lot about wanting abortion to end,” she said. “I just haven’t done anything about it.”
Ed Faddoul and David Mitchell drove 23 hours from Iowa to attend.
“We’re committed to ending abortions in this country,” Mr. Mitchell said. “We want to accelerate the process.”
Ann Nicolosi-Foose, who said she endured heavy traffic to drive from Phillipsburg, N.J., shrugged off the inconvenience.
“We should go to the ends of the Earth to speak up for the unborn,” she said.
Those gathered in the ballroom were all white, nearly all over 40 and mostly Roman Catholic. Mr. Terry garnished his presentation with quotes from the late Pope John Paul II, and his accompanying film showed a statue of the Virgin Mary and a crucifix.
“If the Christian world would simply obey the words and message of ‘Evangelium Vitae,’ child-killing would have already been obliterated,” he said, referring to John Paul’s 1995 encyclical on abortion, euthanasia and the death penalty.
Mr. Terry stressed the hardships of activism, such as his five-month stint in federal prison and 40 arrests at abortion clinics.
“We’re looking for heroes,” he said. “Somebody who’ll do the right thing in the face of hostility from enemies and misunderstanding by friends.
“Most pro-life people don’t want to end abortion. They just want it to go away. They are being delusional. This battle will require enormous sacrifice, bad press and hostility.
“Do we really think we can waltz into hell and take away this crown jewel of Satan without the brawl to end all brawls?”
Mr. Terry has been on the warpath since the mid-1980s when he founded Operation Rescue. He shut down the organization in 1991, owing to a string of lawsuits from pro-choice groups that eventually caused him to file bankruptcy and lose his home. In recent years, a rival organization headed by Troy Newman claimed the Operation Rescue title and Mr. Terry is suing to retain it for himself.
He has also restaked his claim to leadership in the national pro-life movement, moving his offices temporarily to South Bend, Ind., in March after the University of Notre Dame announced that President Obama would be its May 17 commencement speaker. He and some followers were arrested in early May on the campus and charged with trespassing after police spotted them pushing strollers containing dolls covered with fake blood.
Not all Catholics appreciate his efforts.
Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute President Austin Ruse pointed out that Mr. Terry is a recent convert and “cannot be allowed to represent himself as the voice of Catholic orthodoxy.”
“The press love it that the P.T. Barnum of the pro-life movement is now front and center in defending the Catholic Church,” he said in a March 30 guest editorial for the Catholic News Agency.
Mr. Terry said he’s now reading the writings of missionary Amy Carmichael, who battled India’s temple prostitute system in the late 19th century, as well as text by Martin Luther King, Quaker abolitionist Levi Coffin and social reformer William Lloyd Garrison for inspiration.
“I’m looking to these people in the past because I don’t always know what to do,” he confessed Saturday. “When you become an activist, there is a change in your friends, a change of your church. You become the odd man out; the lunatic, the person not asked to parties.”