Fake Blood, Baby Dolls, & Judge Sotomayor: Anti-Choice Activist Turns Hearing Into Comeback Tour

Randall Terry (pictured, left), former head of anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, is trying to make a comeback at the Sotomayor confirmation hearings. That comeback includes baby dolls smeared with fake blood, and a follower dressed as Sotomayor the Grim Reaper.

Terry fell afoul of Operation Rescue in the late '90s and early '00s, when lawsuits bankrupted him (many of them over his illegal blocking of clinics) and he left his wife for a much younger woman. Now he hopes to found a new organization, Operation Rescue Insurrecta Nex ("Insurrection Against Death"), and apparently wants to use the Sotomayor hearings as a springboard. He says,

If child killing is going to be ended, the road goes though this capital, and I intend to be a part of that movement. "And I intend to lead — to be a key leader of that movement. And I am.

Terry has always seen himself as the rightful center of attention — he founded Operation Rescue after a "vision" in which he saw himself on Donahue. And his methods have always been gruesomely theatrical — he had a dead fetus mailed to President Clinton, and he and his followers sometimes chained themselves to abortion equipment. Now, his props of choice are fake blood — smeared on copies of the Roe v. Wade decision and on baby dolls — and a sickle, completing the outfit of a fellow protester dressed as the Grim Reaper in judge's robes. "You gotta admit," says Terry, "the Grim Reaper sickle is a good effect."

To most, Terry's antics probably seem both offensive and opportunistic. But Dahlia Lithwick of Slate finds them refreshing. At least, she argues, the anti-abortion protesters at the hearing are saying what they mean. (There have been five arrested so far.) She takes Lindsey Graham to task for smiling and proclaiming that he "likes" Sotomayor, while asking questions that imply he "feels that Sotomayor wants to take the law away from him and give it away to other, different people." And she says Sotomayor "dodges, hedges, and evades her way through softball and hardball questions alike," though she acknowledges this is "to be expected." Of Terry and his ilk, on the other hand, she writes,

The reason I like the abortion protestors so much is that they come into the hearing room all stealthy and then yell precisely what they feel. It's true, everyone in the press corps now watches each new crop of civilian spectators like hawks as they rotate in; we're all wondering which sweet-faced person will erupt in a torrent of hate and rage and get dragged away. The protesters are, in a way, the mirror image of the nominee who must nod and smile sympathetically as she is insulted and second-guessed. But we'll never know what she's really thinking or even what the senators are really thinking. We all just smile and talk.

Sincere as he may be, we should recognize Terry for what he is — a failed bigot trying to crawl back into the spotlight any way he can.

Old Mission, New Life [Washington Post]
Decades Fighting Abortion [Washington Post]
Honesty At Last! [Slate]