Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry was kicked out of a Virginia Town Hall meeting yesterday for screaming "baby killer" at Howard Dean. Not surprisingly, this stabber of baby dolls and enemy of women's rights is being disowned even by anti-choicers.
The meeting in question took place at a high school in Reston, VA, where Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Howard Dean "were constantly berated by booing and screaming," says Politico's Erika Lovely. At one point Moran accused outsiders of attending the meeting solely to disrupt it, telling the crowd,
I'm sorry but I can't even hear the governor and I'm sitting next to him. There are hundreds of people in this gymnasium who can't hear him because of a handful of people. These folks are not from the 8th District, they don't really belong here, and I'm going to ask them to leave.
Terry was one of the worst offenders. Having told the media he planned "to make a ruckus," he first performed his baby-and-old-lady-stabbing skit outside the meeting. Once inside, he refused to stop shouting epithets like "baby killer," even when Moran offered him five minutes to ask a question at the beginning of the Q&A. Finally, the crowd started chanting, "Kick him out" — and Moran did.
Terry is currently locked in a battle, not just with evil Democrats who want to kill old people, but with Troy Newman, his former "son in the [antiabortion] movement." According to Robin Abcarian of the LA Times, Newman and Terry are fighting it out for rights to the Operation Rescue name, and the revenue stream that comes with it. Terry founded Operation Rescue, and accuses Newman of "stealing another man's heritage" for trademarking the name in 2006. Newman and his supporters, meanwhile, fault Terry for divorcing his wife to marry a younger woman, misappropriating funds, and agreeing to an injunction that barred him from protesting outside of clinics. Newman says,
Randall is articulate and convincing. But so are used-car salesmen and cult leaders. He is not a true believer but a charlatan, and a manipulator. . . . He shows up at a national event, makes a flamboyant speech, gets everyone within earshot rattled and then passes the collection plate and moves on.
We're not sure if skits involving killer doctors count as "articulate and convincing," but then, the statement comes from the man who invented "truth trucks" with pictures of dead fetuses plastered all over them. Other anti-choicers are distancing themselves from both men. Marvin Olafsky, editor of Christian magazine the World, says,
Operation Rescue is largely a blast from the past, and fairly marginalized in the pro-life movement now. About 20 years ago, the Operation Rescue activities were probably creating more support for abortion overall, and as the pro-life movement recognized that, the emphasis became one of offering compassionate help to women in a crisis. The group as a whole, and particularly Randy Terry, never made that leap.
While anti-abortion advocates' "compassionate help to women in a crisis" can mean misinformation and pressure, at least some within the anti-choice movement are repudiating Terry's ridiculous antics. His fellow attendees at the Town Hall meeting also seem to have lost patience with him, if cries of "kick him out" are any indication. These meetings are supposed to be public discussions where misunderstandings (like, say, belief in "death panels") can be corrected and concerns aired. For Terry and others to willfully disrupt them is antidemocratic, and hurts anyone who genuinely wants to make a decision based on the issues. At the Reston meeting, Dean said,
A lot of this debate is about change. And the one thing any doctor can tell you about change is that never make real changes until the pain of staying the same exceed the fear of change. I think the pain has exceeded the fear of change.
Many Americans are at that point with health care reform. Let's hope that those who still fear change more than the pain of the current system get a chance to hear real information — not baseless claims and stupid skits.
Abortion Foes Turn On Each Other Over The Operation Rescue Name [LA Times]
Health Care Town Meeting And Randall Terry [Feminist Looking Glass]
Jim Moran, Howard Dean Face Town Hall Skeptics [Politico]
Randall Terry Kicked Out Of Healthcare Town Hall [Salon]