The Run of Whose Life?

By Swomley, John M. | The Humanist, May-June 1998 | Go to article overview

The Run of Whose Life?


Swomley, John M., The Humanist


Randall Terry, a fundamentalist Protestant and the leader of Operation Rescue, one of the anti-abortion movement's most violent organizations, is running for Congress against incumbent Maurice Hinchey, a Democrat in New York's twenty-sixth district. Terry views his candidacy as "a natural referendum on abortion and homosexuality because anti-life and anti-family groups across America will support Representative Hinchey." However, Terry's candidacy is also a referendum on his advocacy of violence and death, and if he gets the support he expects from so-called pro-life groups, they expose themselves to the charge of being pro-death.

Terry has been a staunch advocate of assassinating medical personnel involved in abortion clinics. In 1989, he and his followers gathered in front of Boulder, Colorado, physician Warren M. Hern's office and prayed for the doctor's execution, In 1993, following the assassination of Florida doctor David Gunn, Terry again broadcast a call for Hern's murder.

Even so, in a letter in the January 5, 1998, issue of the far-right Catholic periodical the Wanderer, Terry speaks of his opponent as a "hard core pro-death leader in Congress" and a "leader of a growing number of treacherous politicians who support special rights for the militant sodomites." He uses such extremist language because he claims, "Hinchey wants to use our tax money to promote homosexuality to the teenage generation" and speaks of "Hinchey's support of forced abortion in Red China."

In his appeal to readers of the Wanderer for funds to begin his advertising attacks on Hinchey, Terry actually used his Operation Rescue as a campaign ploy. He wrote:

I don't just talk about what I'm

going to do; I do it. For example,

in 1988 when I launched

Operation Rescue, I said I would

lead tens of thousands of

Christians to the abortion mills

to save babies from abortion.... By

God's grace I did it. The results

were hundreds of rescue

missions that saved thousands

of babies who otherwise would

have been killed.

There is no evidence that Terry or his groups intimidated enough women to prevent that many abortions. There is evidence, however, that Terry intimidates doctors. In her March 15, 1993, column, Ellen Goodman wrote:

Anyone who wants to check the

fertile soil in which fanaticism

grows has only to listen to the

leader's responses to the

assassination of [Dr. David]

Gunn, the 47-year-old doctor and

father of two. For example,

Randall Terry... said, "We have

to recognize that this doctor was

a mass murderer."

Anthony Lewis of the New York Times quoted Terry at a rally in Melbourne, Florida, as saying, "We've found the weak link is the doctor.... We're going to expose them. We're going to humiliate them."

According to Time, "Doctors, their staffs and families find themselves stalked, harassed and threatened over the phone.... Even the children of clinic workers are targets." Thirteen-year-old Justin Merritt, whose mother is a counselor at a clinic in Melbourne, was approached by a girl and a woman in her thirties, picked up in a car, and driven to a restaurant. There they produced a Bible and told Justin that he and his mother were going to burn in hell. "They identified themselves as members of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue," Time said, "and asked the boy whether he had names of patients at his mother's clinic."

When I testified before a Kansas Senate committee in March 1992 on behalf of religious liberty for women, including Roman Catholic women who sought abortions even though threatened with excommunication and ostracism, a young Catholic woman testified immediately following my statement. …

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