Anti-Abortion Radicals Coming to Philly

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 16 | Posted Mar. 9, 2011

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Operation Rescue is coming to Philadelphia. Last Saturday morning, about 60 people gathered in the basement of St. Agnes Church in West Chester to listen to a speech by the charismatic president of Operation Rescue, a well-known organization that represents a militant faction of the American anti-choice movement.

Under the leadership of 44-year-old Troy Newman, Operation Rescue has become known for zeroing in on defined areas and then pressuring individual clinics and practitioners until operating becomes unreasonable or impossible.

Newman calls this technique a refusal to compromise. Critics and judges have called it harassment. Newman took over the group that became Operation Rescue after an $880,000 judgement against former leader Jeff White for harassing Planned Parenthood staff and patients.

Ethical or not, legal or not, the strategy has been successful. Newman has boasted that in the early ’90s in San Diego, 18 clinics closed and 50 of 72 “abortionists” quit, retired or left town during a five-year “No Place to Hide” campaign.

Then, Operation Rescue moved to Wichita, Kan., and focused on putting abortion provider and pro-choice champion Dr. George Tiller out of business.

In a documentary that aired last fall on the Rachel Maddow Show, Tiller’s former staff described Operation Rescue’s street campaign, which even targeted workers of loosely affiliated businesses like cab companies, FedEx drivers and garbage men who worked with Tiller’s office in any capacity. According to ex-staff members, Operation Rescue would find employees’ home addresses and then distribute photos of the workers alongside pictures of supposedly aborted fetuses to neighbors.

“It’s like we became pariahs,” said one former Tiller staff member.

Tiller was wearing a bullet-proof vest beneath his suit while serving as an usher at Sunday Mass when he was shot in the head and killed by anti-abortion crusader Scott Roeder in May 2009.

These days, Tiller’s Women’s Health Care Services is closed and Operation Rescue says Wichita is “abortion-free.”

With that mission accomplished, the next step is Pennsylvania.

“This is ground zero, the abortion battle starts and ends here,” announced Newman on Saturday.

“Imagine Pennsylvania being the first abortion-free state,” he said. “We should set that goal today.” On Saturday, Newman told the story of the Alamo before inviting the small crowd of mostly middle-aged, almost all-white faithful to serve as “foot soldiers.”

“Philadelphia is in many ways similar to the Alamo,” he says. “You’re here, this is your moment … God handed you an opportunity for success, for victory.”

The “gift from God” is Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who operated the now-shuttered Women’s Medical Society in West Philly. He’s currently facing charges that include murder, serial infanticide, third-trimester abortions and drug trafficking, among other charges.

As the 70-year-old sits in jail, his name is being loudly and repeatedly invoked by pro-life activists as a straw man in the abortion wars.

Next came recruitment. Operation Rescue is actively seeking volunteers to pose as pregnant women seeking abortions for phone calls and visits to hospitals and clinics. The effort is focused on obtaining and distributing the names of physicians who perform abortions and to gather evidence of clinics breaking the law. The latter part is to support the allegation, made repeatedly at the meeting, that all abortion providers in Pennsylvania are regularly breaking the law.

“We have great opportunities here,” said another speaker. “If we discover something, we can expose it. We can have it in the governor’s office in 24 hours.”

Stapled packets listing local abortion clinics with details such as hours, prices and physician names were distributed. “Every abortion provider is violating provisions of the Abortion Control Act,” said the speaker, holding the packet in the air.

There is no proof of this allegation. In fact, the statewide inspection of 22 abortion clinics ordered in January in the wake of Gosnell disproves it.

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Comments 1 - 16 of 16
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1. pete hoge said... on Mar 9, 2011 at 03:36PM

“Christ calls us to pray for sinners, not harass them
with cheap methods which show that the Holy Spirit
is not with a person.

May the Blessed Mother of God pray for all of us

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2. SpeechScrolls said... on Mar 9, 2011 at 05:05PM

“- It's important to note that Scott Roeder, who shot and killed Dr. George Tiller, was not a member of or have any association with Operation Rescue. He did post on their website (as anyone could) that Dr. Tiller should be stopped.

- Also important is that Tiller was one of the few Dr. who performed late term abortions, something that is not supported by many on the pro-choice side either.

- @Pete Hoge. So if you saw a person being beat up, you simply pray for the offender and walk on. Remember that OR believes a human being is murdered with every abortion.

- I'm always confused when a woman carrying a child is murdered, why it becomes 2 counts of murder, but aborting a child isn't murder at all.

It will be interesting to see what tactics OR uses in Philadelphia, being in a larger city than they've protested in before.

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3. Richard Nelson said... on Mar 10, 2011 at 02:08AM


1: Roeder was not a member, but he was much more involved than just a few random posts. A senior member of Operation Rescue even helped Roeder keep tabs on Tiller and his whereabouts.

2: Yes, I have my concerns about how late is TOO late, as well[it's a tough call to make] but it's been made by the courts, and as for now even late-term abortion has been legally determined not to be 'too late'.

3: You are absolutely right, action must be taken to defend the innocent, like the doctors and pregnant teens who are being targeted by Operation Rescue and various other fanatics.

4: People of faith, particularly Christians, often seem unable to tell the difference between "opinions" and "facts". "Red is my favorite color" is an opinion, "Red is a color" is a fact, but "Chair is a color" is NOT a fact, and therefore "Chair is my favorite color" is NOT a valid opinion. Do you see where I'm going with this? An aborted cluster of cells is not a person.”

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4. Richard Nelson said... on Mar 10, 2011 at 02:15AM

“Anyways, if you can't tell, I'm very concerned about Operation Rescue coming to my city, and have been looking into what to do about it. Although I'd love to give them a taste of their own medicinde- such as tormenting them by spreading slander, falsified allegations and their home addresses- that's not what I'm talking about. What I am suggesting is contacting and working with organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU to make sure the doctors and patients have proper protection[legally as well as physically]. If anyone else in the city is as concerned about this as I am, please contact me. My e-mail is”

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5. Anonymous said... on Mar 10, 2011 at 12:42PM

“I enjoyed Tara Murtha’s article on Gosnell some weeks back, it was a surprise to read it in PW. This piece is a return to form and even though I should know better, I am disappointed.
There are many smart, worldly, non-radical people that believe that abortion is a crime against human dignity. Check out former abortionist and NARAL co-founder Bernard Nathanson. He died as an ardent “Anti-Abortion” radical.
Is it really fair to paint anyone that is not “Pro-Choice” as an idiot? Have any of us really taken a fresh look at abortion and our opinions about it?

For years, every Saturday, a small group of Mom-mom and Pop-pop type "anti-abortion" protestors stood at the corner of 38th and Lancaster for a bit, and then processed down the street. At the time I was confused as to why a rinky-dink center in Powelton would draw such a regular focused protest.
The onus was on those that defend abortion as necessary to respond to complaints and abuses. No one from the “Pro-Choice” community did anything visibly to intervene. If this rag-tag group of old folks prevented one teen-ager from being killed, or prevented one woman from unwittingly delivering and paying for the murder of a nearly full-term infant then I am glad they were there.
Biologically, a fetus is a complete, discrete human organism (that is a fact). A fetus is not a tumor. What importance we attach to any human organism and any stage of life is a matter of values or “ethics” (very old people, embryos, convicted murderers etc.). Is it really so strange that many people believe that it should not be an arbitrary decision that determines if a human organism has value?

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6. Nizcole said... on Mar 10, 2011 at 02:24PM

“I shared this article with Planned Parenthood. Hopefully they can organize something to stop these people.”

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7. melissa said... on Mar 12, 2011 at 11:51PM

“A lot of good points are being made here. And chair is my favorite color.”

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8. Any Woman said... on Mar 14, 2011 at 11:38AM

“Womens Rights First...guess we will just go back to allowing women to die having illegal and unsafe procedures...NOT WHILE I LIVE AND BREATHE. Come to Philly. Come to NJ. Either way WE will stop you from speaking badly and brainwashing people out of our rights. I dont care what you think or what you say. It is my body, my life, my CHOICE. No ONE, especially no MAN should dictate our lives. Most siuations do not involve late term abortions but they are highlighted by 'ProLife' activists to be provacative...too bad they aren't worried about the womans life at all. We are secondary and unimportant to them.

It is time for ProChoice people to step up and step out. I for one will be right there the whole way.

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9. Anonymous said... on Mar 14, 2011 at 04:25PM

“This article inspired me to give money to Planned Parenthood. Those people are gross, I'll probably start volunteering there now too. Thanks women's rights haters!”

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10. Josh said... on Mar 15, 2011 at 10:41AM

“Despicable. These folks need to re-read their Bibles (and also our Constitution).”

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11. Anonymous said... on Mar 16, 2011 at 01:13PM

“These people are suppposed to be pro-life and yet they kill. I am disgusted by these people and if someone is hurt in anyway, then they should be held accountable.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Mar 18, 2011 at 03:33PM

“Have planned parenthood move it's offices to North Philadephia. Problem solved.”

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13. Multipass said... on Mar 21, 2011 at 05:55AM

“The only radical I see is the author.”

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14. PRO-CHOICE ALL THE WAY said... on Apr 21, 2011 at 11:42AM


Every last one of these people are retarded. Find a real job. Get a life. And leave this decision up to the women. It is hard enough that we have to even make decisions like this. You think you can shut down all clinics in Pennsylvania?

But trust and believe, Philadelphians are unlike any other. So be smart!”

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15. Anonymous said... on Apr 21, 2011 at 02:02PM

“Women will have abortions whether you anti-abortion activists like it or not so don't waste your time trying to make it illegal. If you really care about human life like you say you do you would allow people to get safe operations and not harm themselves by performing their own surgeries. Also many teens would commit suicide if there were no abortion option. What do you care more about a bible, an unborn child, or a human who already exists and has a working mind?”

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16. Tera Powers said... on Apr 16, 2013 at 12:12AM

“To whoever wrote: "There are many smart, worldly, non-radical people that believe that abortion is a crime against human dignity."

And there are millions of conservative, so-called "pro-life" women who get abortions in a crisis.”


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