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Rabid Anti-Abortionist Tries to Use Sotomayor Hearings for Comeback

Infamous Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry employs his gory protest tactics in Washington to assail Sotomayor's record on reproductive rights.

WASHINGTON -- "What about the unborn?" That was the shout, made repeatedly, from the floor as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., attempted to read her opening statement at the hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. The shouting man was removed, prompting a stern admonition from committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., but the heckler's point was made.

Outside the Hart Senate Office Building, where the hearing was taking place, Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry took press calls on his cell phone amid a handful of the followers of his new organization, Operation Rescue/Insurrecta Nex. I found him escorting Norma McCorvey, the "Jane Roe" of Roe v. Wade, who now crusades against legalized abortion, to her place on the line for those ticketed to view the hearings.

"I see you have blood on your dress," I observed. "It's fake blood," Terry interjected.

"The guy who was removed from the hearing -- is he one of yours?" I asked. "Yes," Terry replied. "And we'll have another one later." He declined to offer the name of the offenders. (Sure enough, in the afternoon session, as Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., read his statement in his first appearance on the Judicial Committee, he was disrupted by a group of Terry's followers.) 

Say what you will about Randall Terry, but the man knows how to get attention for his cause. And this week, his cause -- the end to legal abortion in America -- is hitched to Sotomayor nomination. While even Sotomayor's supporters are unclear about her position on abortion, Terry is certain he knows: to him, she stands for "the murder of innocent children," just as the slain gynecologist, Dr. George Tiller, was, in Terry's words, " a mass murderer."

In 1991, Terry made national headlines with the Operation Rescue " Summer of Mercy" protests he led outside Tiller's Women's Health Services clinic, blockading the entrance to the building.

He was known for his brutal rhetoric and signage: enormous posters of bloody, late-term fetuses became his organization's calling card. A power struggle led to his loss of the Operation Rescue organization and name; hence, on the heels of Terry's 2005 conversion to Catholicism, the Insurrecta Nex incarnation of his original organization. 

Terry's nascent comeback as a radical anti-choice activist found its legs in the controversy around the commencement addressed delivered by President Barack Obama at Notre Dame University two months ago. Terry, McCorvey, former U.N. Ambassador Alan Keyes and several other Insurrecta Nex members pushed baby strollers containing baby dolls smeared with fake blood; one wore an Obama mask, his hands smeared with theatrical blood. They were eventually arrested for civil disobedience.

You'll recall that Obama's speech was interrupted by a heckler: a Terry follower who gave his name only as Joseph. At a recent training for anti-abortion activists convened by Terry at a hotel in suburban Washington, Joseph, a rather affable young man wearing a "Palin for President" T-shirt, testified about his performance at Notre Dame. 

"My heart was pounding in my chest," he said, breathlessly. He explained that, in preparation for his interruption, he told himself, "Get worked up now. Get afraid now." Then, when his moment came, he said, he shouted, "You're a baby-killer! Abortion is murder!" 

Blood -- fake and real -- is a major theme for Terry. At a demonstration he convened yesterday on the steps of the Supreme Court, I watched as he instructed one demonstrator to smear his sign with fake blood. The demonstrator wore the organization's red-smeared Obama mask; he stood next to a tan-skinned young woman with side-parted black hair, dressed in a judicial robe, holding the grim reaper's scythe. The fake-blood-smeared sign held by the fake Obama read, "She's my girl." 

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