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Operation Rescue

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  • Anti-abortion extremists keep crying censorship to raise money

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    If there’s one thing Republicans love more than pretending they’re being victimized by liberal elites, it’s raising money off this inaccurate claim -- a tendency demonstrated clearly during recent congressional hearings on the activities of Facebook. During these hearings, Republican members of Congress elevated various overinflated right-wing grievances against social media companies (such as claims of anti-abortion censorship and anti-Christian bias) in order to pressure the platform into allowing greater promotion of inflammatory or inaccurate content. In particular, they seized on pro-Trump YouTubers Diamond and Silk, who have actively lied about Facebook censoring them and then used the attention to raise money. As close watchers of the anti-abortion movement know, this tactic of crying censorship to garner attention and raise funds is a favorite of anti-choice actors. Here are a few that have recently employed this practice:

    Live Action

    Lila Rose, founder of the anti-abortion group Live Action, appeared on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight in June 2017 alleging that Twitter was censoring Live Action’s ads due to ideological bias. In reality, the content still appeared on Live Action’s Twitter page, but was not allowed to be promoted as an advertisement to other users, not because of bias, but because it violated several of Twitter’s content policies regarding "hate content, sensitive topics, and violence.”

    Instead of altering the organization’s content to meet Twitter’s policies, Rose appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight and used claims of supposed censorship to raise funds for Live Action. As Rose told Carlson, “We’re actually doing a campaign right now to get people to fund Live Action and to get out the information that Twitter is trying to block using other platforms -- using Facebook, using YouTube, using the blogosphere, obviously coming on here and talking with you.”

    Live Action continued to deploy this dishonest tactic even after Rose’s Fox News appearance. Following the June 26 segment, Live Action sent a fundraising email claiming that “Live Action is being suppressed” and asking supporters “to help us strengthen our efforts against the abortion industry.” Live Action’s censorship allegations also animated other right-wing media outlets. For example, on June 29, Christian Broadcasting Network published an article promoting Live Action’s claims about Twitter’s ad policy, which stated that “Live Action has launched a campaign to compensate for their losses due to Twitter’s censoring,” and directed readers to Live Action’s fundraising page. Rose and Live Action also pushed the narrative on Twitter, using the hashtag #DontDeleteMe -- even though all of Live Action tweets remained publicly available on the platform.

    The group also continued to use claims of censorship to raise funds in three October 2017 emails. In one email, Live Action stated that “Twitter is STILL banning our paid ads” and asked whether members would “give a gift to Live Action today so that we can expose more people to the truth.” In another email, Live Action claimed, “While we work to pressure Twitter to lift their ban on ads for pro-life content, we must double our efforts elsewhere” and asked people to “make a gift … so that we can reach more people with the truth.” Live Action made a similar plea in another email, asking people to “consider helping us reach more Americans with the truth about abortion through our other social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.”

    Operation Rescue

    The extremist anti-abortion group Operation Rescue claimed in July 2017 that Google was censoring parts of its website after its page rankings decreased in the results of searches for “abortions in US” or “abortion statistics.” The group alleged that “Google’s search engine has manipulated search parameters to dramatically reduce exposure” to Operation Rescue's web pages, which contain abortion statistics purporting to show the "truth about abortion." Operation Rescue then sent a fundraising email asking for support to "launch a massive campaign to ensure our critical abortion research and pro-life content is available, and no longer pushed down by the pro-abortion radicals at Google." Prior to the complaint, Google announced a policy change regarding how sites containing misleading or false information would be ranked.

    Susan B. Anthony List

    In October 2017, Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) claimed that one of the organization’s Twitter ads, targeting Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring in the 2017 election, was taken down by the platform, seemingly for inflammatory language. Citing this example and other anti-abortion censorship allegations, SBA List asked people to “make a gift today to get our pro-life message past Twitter’s censorship” and to “fight back against Twitter’s censorship.”

    Following Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress last week, SBA List reprised this tactic and emailed supporters to detail instances where the group claimed to have been censored by social media companies. SBA List then directed people to “please make a generous donation of $250 to help win the fight against pro-abortion Silicon Valley elites.”

    Anti-abortion outlets

    Not to be left out of the conversation about supposed anti-abortion censorship, the anti-choice news outlet Life News also sent an email after Zuckerberg’s testimony stating, “Social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube are increasingly censoring pro-life voices,” and asking readers to sign a petition and to “make a donation today … so we can continue to stand up to these social media giants [and] their censorship.”

    Another anti-abortion outlet, LifeSite News, also asked for donations in light of supposed censorship by social media companies. The site posted in March 2018 about the “surprising and disturbing reason why LifeSite’s Spring campaign is struggling.” The reason, according to LifeSite News, “is an almost declared war by the globalist social media giants – Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube against websites, blogs and individuals who promote conservative views.” LifeSite argued that its inability to raise funds was due to censorship from Facebook and Google and pleaded to readers, writing, “To those of you who were not blocked from reading this letter, we are depending on you much more than normal to help us to reach our goal.” Unsurprisingly, the outlet provided zero evidence of the censorship it was allegedly experiencing.

    Roe v. Wade -- the movie

    The producer of an anti-abortion film about Roe v. Wade claimed that Facebook temporarily blocked his ability to post an Indiegogo crowdfunding page for the production of the film. On the Indiegogo page, the film is described as “the real untold story of how people lied; how the media lied; and how the courts were manipulated to pass a law that has since killed over 60 million Americans.” According to the film’s crowdfunding page, the film needs “support now more than ever. Facebook has banned us from inviting friends to ‘Like’ our page and from ‘Sharing’ our PAID ads.”

    Rep. Marsha Blackburn

    In October 2017, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) announced she was running for a Senate seat by tweeting out a campaign video that included a mention of her time as chair of the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives -- a sham investigation based on deceptive and disproven claims by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress. The video included inflammatory language such as that Blackburn had “stopped the sale of baby body parts.” After Twitter temporarily blocked her from running the tweet as a paid ad due to its inflammatory language, Blackburn claimed censorship and made the rounds on Fox News to push this story. Blackburn also used the opportunity to tweet that the “conservative revolution won’t be stopped by @Twitter and the liberal elite,” urging people to “donate to my Senate campaign today.”

    Anti-abortion groups and outlets have found a great deal of success in crying censorship -- a lesson that wider conservative media outlets and figures appear to be taking to heart. As a recently published report from the right-wing Media Research Center (a report that was readily promoted by outlets like Life News) melodramatically framed the issue: “The question facing the conservative movement is one of survival. Can it survive online if the tech companies no longer allow conservative speech and speakers? And, if that happens, can the movement survive at all?”

  • The most extreme right-wing reactions to Cecile Richards' departure from Planned Parenthood

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    On January 24, BuzzFeed reported that Cecile Richards plans to step down as president of Planned Parenthood. Richards confirmed the news on January 26, saying she is departing the organization some time this year. Immediately, anti-abortion and right-wing media and groups took the opportunity to smear Richards and Planned Parenthood in a number of outlandish ways.

    • The Federalist inaccurately claimed that Richards was leaving “amid an ongoing federal investigation.” The story pointed as evidence to the Department of Justice’s procedural request to the Senate judiciary committee in December 2017 for documents related to the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress’ (CMP) discredited videos, which purport to show Planned Parenthood engaged in illicit practices.
    • Anti-abortion outlet LifeSiteNews published a piece that quoted CMP’s founder David Daleiden who alleged that Richards was leaving because “the secret is out that Planned Parenthood is a taxpayer-sponsored crime syndicate of industrial-scale child killing."
    • On One America News’ Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler, host Liz Wheeler said that although some might refer to her as "a conspiracy theorist,” her previous segment “about the legacy of Cecile Richards” was “666 words exactly.” She made the same point on Twitter.
    • Anti-abortion group Operation Rescue’s Senior Vice President Cheryl Sullenger -- who served two years in prison for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic -- posted on social media a series of photoshopped images of Richards wearing an orange jumpsuit in a prison cell and used a variety of hashtags, such as #ReleaseTheMemo and #Qanon. Sullenger’s use of the hashtags was likely an attempt to connect Richards’ departure to the right-wing campaign against special counsel Robert Mueller and the conspiracy theory thread on 8chan message board, respectively.

    • The Stream, an outlet founded by televangelist James Robison, posted a story titled “Can Cecile Richards Live With All the Ghosts?”

    • The Daily Wire called Richards “Planned Parenthood’s chief maniacal ghoul” and stated that “we can only hope Cecile Richards returns swiftly to the obscurity of whichever cavern of Hell spawned her.” The image accompanying the article -- titled “3.5 Million People Are Dead Today Because Of Cecile Richards” -- depicted Richards with devil horns and tail, photoshopped on an ultrasound image of a fetus with a halo.

    • Fake news purveyor Conservative Tribune responded to news of Richards’ departure, commenting, “It takes a special kind of evil to go to sleep at night knowing babies are being killed under your watch.”
    • Catholic newspaper National Catholic Register published a blog post that asked, “Does Richards sleep well at night, or are sleeping pills required to stop the nightmares of babies’ souls that come to visit?”
    • After Hillary Clinton tweeted at Richards thanking her for her work, far-right blog The Gateway Pundit published a piece titled, “Hillary Clinton Thanks Planned Parenthood Pres Cecile Richards For Overseeing the Murder of Millions of Babies - Twitter Responds.”

  • How one Republican used a tactic from the anti-abortion media playbook to bully Twitter

    Rep. Marsha Blackburn has a long history of taking cues from anti-abortion groups to gin up right-wing support -- and her latest attack on Twitter is no different

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Anti-abortion groups and media outlets have a habit of claiming censorship in order to boost fundraising by ginning up outrage and support. Now this media manipulation tactic is being employed by a staunch anti-choice ally: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

    On October 5, Blackburn announced a run for retiring Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-TN) seat. As part of this announcement, Blackburn’s campaign tweeted a short video advertising her right-wing bonafides, including her work as chair of the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, which was created to conduct a politically motivated investigation of Planned Parenthood on the basis of deceptive videos from a discredited anti-abortion organization. Although the panel was regarded by many as merely “an expensive witch hunt,” Blackburn touted her role during the campaign video, claiming that she had “fought Planned Parenthood” and “stopped the sale of baby body parts.”

    Although Blackburn's campaign wanted to pay to promote the video on Twitter as an ad, the social media site initially objected, drawing widespread outrage among anti-abortion and right-wing outlets. According to an October 10 Associated Press report, Twitter found that Blackburn’s statement about “baby body parts” violated platform rules because it was “‘deemed an inflammatory statement that is likely to evoke a strong negative reaction.’” Twitter allowed the video to remain up but not as promoted content, concluding that the campaign “would be allowed to run the rest of the video” as a paid ad if it ommitted the phrase.

    This stance did not last long, however. The next day, Twitter reversed its position and announced that it would allow Blackburn’s campaign to promote the ad, commenting to Politico, “While we initially determined that a small portion of the video used potentially inflammatory language, after reconsidering the ad in the context of the entire message, we believe that there is room to refine our policies around these issues.”

    Blackburn's campaign quickly seized on Twitter’s refusal as an act of censorship -- taking a page straight from the anti-abortion media playbook.

    As Media Matters has previously noted, anti-abortion extremists have increasingly employed the tactic of alleging “censorship” or claiming that inaccurate anti-choice content is being “shut down” to gin up fundraising support and rile up right-wing media allies. By reacting to perceived slights as instances of injustice or censorship, these groups can incite followers, increase fundraising, and appeal to an audience motivated by anti-elite sentiments but normally less attuned to the activities of the anti-abortion movement.

    In one example, anti-abortion extremist Lila Rose alleged that Twitter was censoring advertisements from her group Live Action by similarly prohibiting their promotion as sponsored content. After Rose appeared on the June 26 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight to discuss Twitter’s alleged bias, a banner was added to Live Action’s home page begging for donations to combat the act of censorship. By June 30, the organization had announced that it had reached its fundraising goal but nevertheless asked supporters to continue donating in order to “guarantee” Live Action could continue working “to expose the abortion industry.” Other anti-abortion organizations and right-wing outlets also came to Live Action’s defense, working to create even more support for claims of censorship and persecution.

    Emulating this tactic, the Blackburn campaign was quick to cry foul and turn the perceived slight into a fundraising opportunity. On October 9, the campaign’s Twitter account circulated a video inaccurately alleging that Blackburn was “banned by Twitter” and asking supporters to share the clip in order to “spread the word” that “Silicon Valley won’t stop our conservative movement with censorship.” The account also shared posts from anti-abortion groups and outlets alleging that Blackburn had been censored. The Blackburn campaign even sent an email to supporters asking for donations, warning that the “liberal elite wants to censor us at every opportunity.” Over the next 24 hours, Blackburn appeared multiple times on Fox News to repeat her claims of censorship and enjoyed a surge in media attention from outlets across the political spectrum. Twitter ultimately caved to the pressure and allowed the campaign to run Blackburn’s ad with the allegations against Planned Parenthood intact.

    The symbiotic relationship between Blackburn and various anti-abortion groups or media is hardly a secret. During Blackburn’s time as select panel chair, the committee held three hearings that utilized evidence sourced directly from anti-abortion groups as so-called “evidence” of wrongdoing by abortion providers and related organizations. Indeed, several anti-abortion groups, including (but likely not limited to) New Mexico Alliance for Life, Protest ABQ, Operation Rescue, and the Center for Medical Progress provided “documentation and materials” to the select panel. A member of Protest ABQ even bragged about having influence over the panel's investigators, stating that their research "finally paid off and turned into the panel investigating.” In addition to leveraging connections to anti-abortion groups, Blackburn also leaked an advanced copy of allegations from the panel to Fox News -- before sharing it with minority members -- and provided an exclusive interview inaccurately alleging that Planned Parenthood had operated in “direct violation of federal law.”

    Blackburn’s deployment of the censorship tactic elides the more fundamental issue with the ad itself: the fact that it was based on a falsehood. Contrary to Blackburn's claim, multiple state investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing, while the anti-choice activists responsible for the initial “baby parts” allegations are currently the subject of multiple lawsuits.

    Blackburn’s campaign took a page out of the anti-abortion playbook to garner a concession from Twitter. And as New York magazine's Margaret Hartmann noted, Blackburn’s success -- despite the falsity of her claims -- “has probably encouraged Republican midterm candidates to throw some unproven, inflammatory statements into the ads.” Indeed, Blackburn has already taken to calling Twitter's reversal "our first Senate conservative victory." 

  • Meet the extreme anti-abortion group trying to close Kentucky's last clinic

    ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT

    The extreme anti-abortion group Operation Save America (OSA) gathered in Kentucky for a week in July to protest -- and ultimately try to shutter -- the state’s one remaining abortion clinic, EMW Women’s Surgical Center. Given that OSA’s protests have garnered national media attention, here’s what media outlets should know about the violent history and rhetoric of the group and its leaders.

  • Anti-Choice Extremist Troy Newman Endorses Donald Trump

    Founding Board Member Of CMP Newman Joins Other Extremists In Courting Evangelical Votes For Trump

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On September 13, anti-abortion extremist Troy Newman endorsed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, citing concerns that “a [Hillary] Clinton presidency will result in more dead babies.” Newman has a long history of anti-choice extremism and targeted harassment of abortion providers -- including involvement with the discredited Center for Medical Progress and leadership of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue. Newman’s endorsement represents the latest step in anti-LGBT hate group leader Tony Perkins’ efforts to help Trump court evangelical voters.

  • Meet The Anti-Abortion Activist Who Now Controls Texas Women’s Access To Reproductive Care

    A Media Guide To Carol Everett’s Most Misinformed Claims About Abortion, Contraception, Reproductive Health Care, And Sex Education

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Texas awarded anti-abortion activist Carol Everett, who runs a network of crisis pregnancy centers, the second largest contract in the state’s restructured reproductive safety net program. Everett has frequently appeared on a local Fox affiliate in Austin, as well as on a number of conservative media outlets, to push misinformation about abortion, contraception, and general reproductive health care. Here’s what the media should know about the anti-choice activist who now controls Texas women’s access to reproductive health care.

  • Who Are The Anti-Choice Activists On Evening Cable?

    Meet the Anti-Choice Figures Who Appear Most Often To Spread Misinformation About Abortion

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In 2015 and early 2016, evening cable news programming featured three anti-choice activists a total of 23 times, despite these guests’ consistent efforts to spread misinformation and outright falsehoods about Planned Parenthood, reproductive health care, and abortion access. According to a new Media Matters study, all 23 of these appearances occurred on Fox, which during this same timespan hosted only a single advocate representing a pro-choice organization.

    Media Matters analyzed 14 months of evening cable programming, examining details including the frequency with which people who self-identified as anti-choice were involved in discussions about abortion and reproductive rights.

    From January 1, 2015, to March 6, 2016, the three anti-choice activists who appeared the most on evening cable news programs were Lila Rose and David Daleiden -- both notorious for their discredited attempts to smear Planned Parenthood using deceptively edited videos -- along with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, an extremist hate group. Collectively, these three anti-choice activists appeared a total of 23 times on Fox News’ evening programs to talk about abortion-related topics.

    Dishonorable mentions also go to Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, the Rev. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, and Operation Rescue president Troy Newman, another infamous extremist with ties to anti-choice violence. Each of these speakers appeared at least once to attack Planned Parenthood and spread misinformation about reproductive health.

    The Anti-Choice Speakers Who Appeared The Most Often On Evening Cable Programs To Talk About Abortion

    1. Lila Rose, Live Action

    Lila Rose, the president and founder of the anti-choice group Live Action, was the most frequent anti-choice guest to appear during evening cable programming, with 10 appearances over 14 months. Rose is best known for her connections to right-wing activists and her long, disreputable history of perpetrating hoaxes and concocting false allegations against abortion providers.

    These allegations have been repeatedly debunked and proved to be unfounded.

    According to a 2009 profile in the Los Angeles Times, Rose began her career partnered with right-wing activist James O’Keefe in 2006. O’Keefe had a history of attempting to smear liberal organizations by using doctored undercover video, but the two “came up with the idea to infiltrate clinics” after being “inspired by the work of Mark Crutcher, a Texas anti-abortion activist who in 2002 taped faked calls to hundreds of Planned Parenthood clinics,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Rose has staged (and illicitly filmed) conversations with Planned Parenthood providers and staff while masquerading as a young woman seeking an abortion. She then heavily edited these conversations to allege that Planned Parenthood engaged in a variety of systemic criminal activities.

    Beyond O’Keefe, Rose has been supported by a larger infrastructure of right-wing media and anti-choice organizations. For example, when Rose released her deceptive videos in February 2011, Fox News provided frequent coverage. Rose herself appeared on Fox to promote the videos multiple times in the months that followed. Rose has also greatly benefited from the “generous assistance” of “powerful players” on the right such as anti-LGBT legal giant Alliance Defending Freedom and the Gerard Health Foundation -- an organization known for promoting fringe views on birth control, sex education, and reproductive rights. In 2008, Rose received the anti-choice group Operation Rescue’s Person of the Year award, and she also previously employed David Daleiden as Live Action’s director of research.

    Rose also has a history of making extreme comments about abortion, such as that the procedure should be “done in the public square” so that people could experience outrage and then “hear angels singing as we ponder the glory of conception.” Rose has also attacked abortion providers, once calling Planned Parenthood “the single most evil organization in human history” and alleging that they provide abortions on behalf of Satan.

    2. David Daleiden, Center For Medical Progress

    David Daleiden is the founder and “project lead” at the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the organization responsible for propagating an extensive smear campaign against Planned Parenthood so fraudulent that CMP earned the title of Media Matters’ 2015 Misinformer of the Year. After CMP released its first deceptively edited video in July 2015, Daleiden appeared seven times on evening cable news programs over the next nine months to promote the false allegations that Planned Parenthood profited from the sale of fetal tissue.

    CMP’s videos have been consistently discredited while over 13 state investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing. On January 25, a Houston grand jury, which was called upon to investigate allegations made by CMP, decided not to take action against Planned Parenthood and instead indicted Daleiden and one of his associates for using fraudulent means to gain access to Planned Parenthood clinics in the state. Likewise, a federal judge determined that CMP’s work constituted “misleadingly edited videos and unfounded assertions … of criminal misconduct.”

    Daleiden is not only well-connected to other anti-choice extremist groups; he also enjoys support from conservative media. Daleiden has used this media prominence as an opportunity to attack abortion providers. For example, in an interview on Glenn Beck’s radio program, Daleiden described one provider as “evil” and having “the predator look … that you see in someone who is accustomed to killing people.” Even when right-wing media have not given Daleiden himself a platform, they have frequently carried water for his misleading allegations.

    CMP’s work has also prompted a variety of baseless congressional investigations and multiple efforts by anti-choice legislators to defund Planned Parenthood at the state and federal level. Most recently, the congressional Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives -- established by Republicans in October 2015 to investigate fetal tissue donation practices -- has extensively relied on “evidence” pulled directly from CMP’s website and deceptively edited videos to allege wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.

    According to the National Abortion Federation (NAF), harassment, violence, and threats against abortion providers and clinics have all been increasing. NAF’s 2015 statistics confirm that “the sharp rise in threats and violence in 2015 ... directly correlates to the release of inflammatory videos aimed at demonizing providers.”

    3. Tony Perkins, Family Research Council

    With six appearances over the span of 14 months, Tony Perkins -- an extremist hate group leader -- was the third-most hosted anti-choice advocate. Perkins is president of the Family Research Council (FRC), an anti-LGBT group that was listed as a “hate group” in 2010 by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its role in propagating known falsehoods about LGBT people.

    In addition to Perkins’ anti-choice views, he also has a history of making inflammatory comments about the LGBT community. For example, Perkins has equated being gay with using drugs and committing adultery, accused gay people of attempting to “recruit” children, and compared gay advocates to terrorists. As president of FRC, he has repeated the extensively debunked myth that pedophilia is “a homosexual problem,” argued in favor of the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called “reparative therapy,” and falsely claimed that children are harmed by having same-sex parents.

    Perkins is responsible for organizing key evangelical support behind former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. Perkins served on the former candidate’s “Pro-Lifers for Cruz Coalition” alongside known anti-choice extremist Troy Newman. Cruz has made no secret of his disdain for Planned Parenthood, or of his support for David Daleiden and CMP’s smear campaign.

    Dishonorable Mentions -- Other Anti-Choice Activists Hosted By Fox

    1. Jay Sekulow, American Center For Law And Justice

    Jay Sekulow is the chief counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) -- a conservative anti-choice legal group that is defending former CMP board member Troy Newman in a lawsuit filed by the National Abortion Federation (NAF). Sekulow has been a vocal opponent of Planned Parenthood funding and the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

    Following CMP’s release of deceptively edited video, Sekulow joined anti-choice legislators and extremists in calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Beyond attacking Planned Parenthood, Sekulow and the ACJL have frequently defended Daleiden and CMP as “investigative journalists.” A grand jury, a federal judge, and many journalists have rejected this characterization.

    Sekulow is also a proponent of Senate Republicans' ongoing obstruction of Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and he has suggested support for state policies that “punish” people for obtaining an abortion. In an April 1 edition of his radio show, Sekulow said that the idea of punishing people for receiving abortions was “not craziness” and that “for any other person that somebody killed, they’d be held culpable.”

    Sekulow also represented one of the plaintiffs in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby -- the first challenge heard by the Supreme Court to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the court found that certain classes of employer could not be compelled to include contraception in their employees’ insurance plans if doing so ran counter to the employers’ sincerely held religious beliefs. In explaining his client’s position, Sekulow wrongly argued that the ACA’s contraceptive mandate would include coverage of “abortion-inducing drugs.”

    Neither of his assertions is true.

    Medical experts agree that there are stark differences between emergency contraception and abortion procedures or drugs that act as "abortifacients." According to a March 2016 white paper from the Princeton University Office of Population Research, emergency contraception pills "do not interrupt an established pregnancy" and therefore “are not abortifacient[s]," in part because the medical consensus defines "implantation" as the beginning of a pregnancy.

    2. The Rev. Frank Pavone, Priests For Life

    The Rev. Frank Pavone is the national director of the Catholic anti-choice group Priests for Life. Pavone is well-connected to other anti-choice groups -- notably bragging about his “partnership with Operation Rescue” and the “close” relationship he enjoys with CMP. In his work, Pavone regularly insults abortion providers, attacks Planned Parenthood, and promotes the stigmatization of abortion.

    Pavone has a history of making extreme and false comments about abortion providers and reproductive rights advocates. For example, when the president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, spoke at Georgetown University, Pavone argued that inviting Richards was akin to inviting “representatives of ISIS” to speak in order to “understand terrorism.” Similarly, when defending CMP’s work, Pavone wrongly accused abortion providers of “doing a lot of other evil things” as well. His examples were: “medical malpractice, sexual abuse of patients, violation of OSHA standards, insurance laws, money laundering, all kinds of fraud and, yes, even the sale of body parts.” In response to the deadly November 2015 attack on a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado, Pavone blamed supporters of abortion access for “poisoning the moral climate in our nation.”

    Despite Daleiden’s mounting legal troubles, Pavone has warned that “the troubles for Planned Parenthood have only just begun.” He has championed the efforts of anti-choice extremist Mark Crutcher -- who previously promised to train and “unleash a whole army of David Daleidens” to infiltrate and baselessly attack reproductive health care providers.

    Pavone has also worked to stigmatize abortion, saying that anti-choice groups like his “exploit the stigma of abortion, we lift it up high for people to see, we reinforce it.” Abortion stigma is the shared idea that abortion is morally wrong or socially unacceptable, but in reality, abortion is an incredibly common procedure that 30 percent of women will undergo by age 45.

    3. Troy Newman, Operation Rescue

    Troy Newman is the president of Operation Rescue -- an extremist anti-choice group with a history of spouting violent rhetoric and harassing abortion providers, whose senior policy advisor, Cheryl Sullenger, was convicted of conspiring to bomb a clinic in 1987. A Rolling Stone profile of Operation Rescue described the organization’s strategy as a “smear campaign … to shut down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting.”

    To further this strategy, Newman has trained other anti-choice activists and supported the development of spin-off groups that continue Operation Rescue’s work across the country. He previously served as one of CMP’s founding board members before resigning after a Texas grand jury indicted Daleiden and one of his associates.

    Newman claims that Operation Rescue has never endorsed violence, yet in his book Their Blood Cries Out, Newman wrote that the U.S. government had “abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty,” which he said would involve “executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes.” Similarly, when Paul Jennings Hill was executed for the murder of an abortion provider and a clinic escort, Newman argued that Hill should have been able to mount the defense that it was “necessary” to kill the providers in order to save "the lives of pre-born babies." Operation Rescue's Sullenger also reportedly helped convicted murderer Scott Roeder keep track of legal proceedings for his eventual victim, abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.

    Beyond his work with Operation Rescue, Newman also has a personal history of harassing providers -- a reputation that caused Australia to deport him out of concern that his “presence would be ‘a threat to good order’” and that he would “compromise the safety and wellbeing” of abortion providers and those seeking care.

  • PBS Gave Troy Newman A Platform To Whitewash His Anti-Choice Record -- And That’s Exactly What He Did

    PBS Fails To Call Out Newman’s Radical History During Gun Safety Town Hall

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On May 10, PBS hosted a town hall conversation about gun violence and faith in America and invited anti-choice extremist Troy Newman to participate. During the town hall, PBS and host Michel Martin failed to identify Newman’s history of extremism and allowed him to downplay his organization’s role in harassing abortion providers.

    Newman is the long-serving president of Operation Rescue and is best known for his ties to extreme anti-choice groups and history of harassing abortion providers with violent rhetoric. A 2014 Rolling Stone profile called Newman “one of the nation's most prominent anti-abortion activists.” His reputation is so infamous that in 2015 Australia deported Newman out of concern that his “presence would be ‘a threat to good order’” and that he would “compromise the safety and wellbeing” of abortion providers and those seeking care.

    A number of reproductive rights groups warned PBS that giving Newman a national platform to “whitewash” his history of anti-choice extremism was “not only irresponsible” but also “downright frightening and potentially dangerous.” NARAL Pro-Choice America senior vice president Sasha Bruce argued that given the unprecedented uptick in anti-choice violence over the past year, “PBS should be ashamed of itself for giving weight to Troy Newman's dangerous opinions."

    Despite all of this, PBS provided Newman a platform to downplay his history of anti-choice extremism -- and that’s exactly what he did.

    At the beginning of the town hall, Martin identified Newman as the “president of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue” with no explanation of the group’s extreme history or current work. For the rest of the town hall Newman was identified on screen exclusively as a “Presbyterian Minister” with no further mention of Operation Rescue.

    Similarly, at the conclusion of the town hall, Martin allowed Newman to spread misinformation about the safety of abortion and mischaracterize Operation Rescue’s goal of ending patient access to the procedure. In his final remarks, Newman claimed that because of abortion, “the most dangerous place to be in America today is in the womb.” Martin did not challenge Newman, allowing him to continue that Operation Rescue’s goal is to “close abortion clinics through peaceful non-violent means”:

    TROY NEWMAN: I have to say yes and amen to that. Preach it. I will continue to do what I have done for the past 25 years and that is advocate for the least of these among us. We talk about violence. The most violent place or the most dangerous place to be in America today is in the womb. Over 1 million babies die from abortion. And I will continue to advocate for their lives. And you talk about beating your swords into plowshares, what we do is we close abortion clinics through peaceful non-violent means, so that’s what I will continue to do. I will continue to preach non-violence everywhere it rears its ugly head. And I would just close by saying this: I so appreciate this forum, I appreciate all of you, I appreciate the discourse.

    Although Newman has claimed Operation Rescue is peaceful, this characterization ignores the organization’s history and current pattern of harassment against abortion providers.

    For example, in 1987, Operation Rescue vice president Cheryl Sullenger was sentenced to prison for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic. Sullenger also communicated with Scott Roeder, the convicted assassin of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, providing him information about Tiller's schedule and location.

    Far from Newman’s characterization, Rolling Stone’s profile explained Operation Rescue’s strategy as a “smear campaign … to shut down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting.” The article said Operation Rescue members “rummage through employees’ garbage … tail them around town as they run errands … picket clinic staffers at restaurants while they’re inside having dinner and castigate them while they’re in line at Starbucks.”

    Newman also told Rolling Stone that he wanted providers and clinic employees to know that, “As long as they're embedded in the abortion industry receiving blood money, they can't live a normal life.” Treating abortion as abnormal or shameful reinforces abortion stigma -- the “shared understanding that abortion is morally wrong and/or socially unacceptable." Abortion is both common and overwhelmingly safe, but Newman’s demonization of abortion providers is part of a larger strategy by anti-choice groups to “exploit the stigma of abortion” in order to deter patients from accessing this essential health care service.

    By failing to identify Newman’s history or call out the extreme nature of his anti-choice views, PBS and Michel Martin gave him a free platform to stigmatize abortion and normalize the further harassment of abortion providers.

  • The Nation Explains Why It's So Appalling That Troy Newman Was Made "National Co-Chair" Of Cruz's Anti-Choice Coalition

    Newman Joins Hate Group Leader Tony Perkins To Lead Cruz's "Pro-Life" Agenda

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On January 27, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz announced the formation of his new anti-choice coalition: "Pro-Life For Cruz." As part of the announcement, Cruz named anti-choice extremist Troy Newman as a "national co-chair" of the group, despite Newman's problematic history of harassing abortion providers and endorsing violent rhetoric about them.

    Reporting for The Nation on January 28, George Zornick detailed why Cruz's "doubling down on his connection with Newman" was as problematic as Newman's own appalling history of anti-choice activism. According to Zornick, Cruz praised Newman for having "led the charge for the pro-life cause" and being a "true inspiration." Yet Newman has a well-established history of harassing abortion providers and spouting violence-endorsing rhetoric against them.

    As the president of the anti-choice organization Operation Rescue, Newman argued that "the murder of abortion doctors is legally permissible" and he openly harassed clinic employees. In his radical book Their Blood Cries Out, Newman suggested that 9/11, AIDS, and even California's historic drought were all punishments from God for allowing legal abortion. Newman's views are so extreme that, as The New York Times reported in 2015, Australia cancelled Newman's visa over "concerns that he might encourage violence against abortion providers or women seeking the procedures."

    Most recently, Newman served as a board member of The Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the organization responsible for propagating a smear campaign so fraudulent that the organization earned the title of Media Matters' Misinformer of the Year for 2015. Last week, the president of CMP, David Daleiden, and one of his co-conspirators were indicted by a grand jury in Harris County, Texas for their involvement in this attack on Planned Parenthood. Troy Newman is no longer on the board of CMP -- as The New York Times reported, he "resigned from the center's board when Mr. Daleiden was indicted."

    As The Nation's Zornick noted, Cruz also praised Tony Perkins, the leader of known hate group Family Research Council for agreeing to lead the "Pro-Life For Cruz" coalition. From The Nation:

    With the Iowa caucuses only days away, Senator Ted Cruz has announced the formation of a "Pro-Lifers for Cruz" coalition that aims to "champion every child, born and unborn."

    Among the national co-chairs of that coalition is Troy Newman, one of the more malevolent figures in the anti-choice movement. He is the president of the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, and a board member at the Center for Medical Progress, which just saw two employees indicted in Houston for deceptions conducted while creating the now-infamous "baby parts" videos that targeted Planned Parenthood.

    Newman has often suggested that the murder of abortion doctors is legally permissible, and his group has been connected to several notorious anti-choice acts of violence over the past 20 years.

    It would be virtually impossible not to be aware of this fact--it defines Newman's career--yet Cruz said in a statement Wednesday that "Every single national co-chair in this coalition has led the charge for the pro-life cause and is a true inspiration." Newman formally endorsed Cruz back in November, which created a small stir-up in the press, and Cruz is now doubling down on his connection with Newman.

    [...]

    Pro-choice advocates quickly noticed Cruz's bear hug of Newman. "Given that this announcement came out after [David Daleiden's] indictment, I'm pretty shocked that he included him," said Sasha Bruce, NARAL's vice president of campaigns and strategies. "It's not enough that he made his endorsement at a presidential level of somebody who advocates violence, he has now been indicted."

  • Associated Press Story Omits Critical Details About The Anti-Choice Activists From CMP Who Were Just Indicted

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    The Associated Press profiled the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the anti-choice group responsible for releasing undercover footage as part of a smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, after the founder and an associate were indicted on felony charges. Yet, the AP report failed to note that the videos were deceptively edited or that CMP and its senior members have extremist ties.

  • Anti-Choice Extremist Troy Newman: Colorado Shooting Was "Exactly What" Planned Parenthood Has "Been Hoping For"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Troy Newman, one of the anti-choice extremists behind the deceptive videos targeting Planned Parenthood, believes that the recent shooting at the organization's Colorado Springs facility "is exactly what they've been hoping for" because it makes them "the victims" instead of "the victimizers."  

    Newman is the president of Operation Rescue and a board member for the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which has been releasing videos smearing Planned Parenthood and accusing them of illegal behavior. Multiple investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of illegal activity.

    The alleged perpetrator of the deadly Colorado Springs shooting reportedly said "no more baby parts" after his arrest. As The Washington Post noted, the line "would appear to be a reference to recent controversy over Planned Parenthood's handling of fetal tissue. In July, the Center for Medical Progress released a video showing Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical research discussing the preservation of fetal hearts, lungs and livers for use in research."

    On November 27, Newman released a statement saying that "Operation Rescue unequivocally deplores and denounces all violence at abortion clinics." 

    Newman has a long history of incendiary remarks that include "praising the killing of abortion doctors and calling women who have abortions 'murderers.'" He has tried to "shut down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting." Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently accepted Newman's endorsement for president, calling him "a driving force in the recent effort to expose Planned Parenthood's alleged sale of baby parts in a series of undercover videos."

    During a November 30 interview on The Drew Mariani Show, Newman claimed that Planned Parenthood was thankful for the deadly attack because the group can now portray itself as "the victims."  

    When asked by Mariani if the shooting is "helpful to Planned Parenthood," Newman replied: "Planned Parenthood, you know, desperately needs something to save their bacon from being defunded and thrown in jail, the multiple investigations in Congress, etcetera. They need something to deflect and this is exactly what they've been hoping for. Something to deflect the attention away from them as being the victimizers and back on to being the victims, that's where they like to be, is to be the poor victim."

    He also dismissed arguments that CMP's videos influenced the shooter's thinking, claiming: "So if, and I'm saying a big if -- if there is a heightened awareness of the gruesomeness of abortion, it's not our rhetoric. It's the abortionists themselves that have been uncovered and shown to be who they are. And if people are disgusted by it, it's because we've caught the abortionists telling the truth."

    From the November 30 edition of Relevant Radio's The Drew Mariani Show:

    DREW MARIANI: But since the videos began airing, this article contended that threats against abortion clinics nationwide have spiked. Now I've never heard that before, I've never seen that anywhere. I don't know where the empirical evidence or data for that is. Since your films began, has there been violence against these clinics and, you know, is there any connection between what has been brought to the national, to the nation in this incident?

    NEWMAN: Well, I love the question. Actually, I love the premise of the question because I've been asked it so many times by far-left wing reporters over the past weekend. And I say the question is essentially is my rhetoric in the videos causing violence because we're talking about babies being murdered, and their body parts sold. And so I spin the question back on these reporters and I said, 'Listen, what is in the videos? Have you watched them? ' In fact, there's no commentary by pro-lifers pointing something out saying, 'this is murder.' No, the videos, all eleven of them, show abortionists speaking more like pro-lifers than pro-lifers do. They're the ones haggling over baby body parts. They're the ones describing the dismembering of innocent children. They're the ones who are discussing that they want a Lamborghini in exchange for, you know, these body parts. They're the ones talking about the gruesome nature of the abortion procedure and how they change it to put their profit margin ahead of women's health.

    So if, and I'm saying a big if -- if there is a heightened awareness of the gruesomeness of abortion, it's not our rhetoric. It's the abortionists themselves that have been uncovered and shown to be who they are. And if people are disgusted by it, it's because we've caught the abortionists telling the truth.

    [...]

    MARIANI: Is this event helpful to Planned Parenthood? I mean it's horrible when you see the loss of life but in terms of, I don't know, kind of taking the fire from their feet, so to speak, does this in some respects, I don't -- take some heat off of them? You know what I'm saying?

    NEWMAN: Well, look, they're already fundraising off of it. They're already attempting to deflect and make us the murderers and not them. I took a picture of a screenshot over the weekend where it said Planned Parenthood has been declared a crime scene. Well every single abortion clinic should be declared a crime scene.

    MARIANI: Amen.

    NEWMAN: These people are selling baby body parts for a profit. They're committing many, multiple felonies and there's prima facie evidence in our videos to prove that what we need is prosecutions.

    But Planned Parenthood, you know, desperately needs something to save their bacon from being defunded and thrown in jail, the multiple investigations in Congress, etcetera. They need something to deflect and this is exactly what they've been hoping for. Something to deflect the attention away from them as being the victimizers and back on to being the victims, that's where they like to be, is to be the poor victim. 'Just health care officials just trying to provide health care for women' and the radical, anti-choice extremists, or misogynist pigs like me are the ones trying to hurt them. 

    MARIANI: Well bottom line it's a tragedy to see this unfold --

    NEWMAN. Yes.

    MARIANIA. -- and happen. I want to commend you though on your work and your vigilance. You know you're going to come under attack for exposing this type of evil.

  • Troy Newman, Anti-Choice Extremist With A History Of Violent Rhetoric, Endorses Ted Cruz

    ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is touting the endorsement of Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue and a board member for The Center for Medical Progress (CMP). Newman is one of the country's most notorious anti-choice activists. He was a "driving force" behind CMP's series of misleading videos smearing Planned Parenthood and has a long history of incendiary remarks that include "praising the killing of abortion doctors and calling women who have abortions 'murderers.'"

  • The Extreme And Violent Background Of The Group Consulting On The Anti-Planned Parenthood Videos

    ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    The anti-choice group Operation Rescue has been consulting with the Center for Medical Progress to attack Planned Parenthood with deceptively edited footage. Operation Rescue attempts to stop the "Abortion Holocaust" by "systematically harassing" abortion clinic workers. The group's leadership includes a convicted felon who attempted to bomb an abortion clinic, and it once issued a press release saying the killer of an abortion doctor should have been able to argue it was a "justifiable defensive action."