Updated: Catholic Bishops Embrace Anti-Abortion Terrorizers Missy Smith and Randall Terry

Personal Health

Editor's Note: Scroll down to hear the audio recording of Missy Smith's remarks about Dr. George Tiller and Dr LeRoy Carhart.

UPDATE: Since our initial report on the John Paul II Cultural Center's upcoming March for Life activities, Randall Terry has been barred from participating in the program that will be presented by his associate, Missy Smith, at the John Paul II Cultural Center on January 23, according to Deputy Director Hugh Dempsey, Ph.D. However, Missy Smith will still be making a presentation on behalf of her group, W.A.K.E. U.P. (Women Against the Killing and Exploitation of Unprotected Persons) and its affiliate, Chastity Programs International, but her program will not address anti-choice activism, focusing instead on chastity, Dempsey told AlterNet.

On the W.A.K.E. U.P. Web site, Smith announced that her Chastity Programs International has "formed a partnership with the well known Pope John Paul II Cultural Center (JPIICC)...to bring nationally known chastity speakers to JPIICC. This institution was in the news this April because of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit during his visit to America."  The W.A.K.E. U.P. site also features prominently displayed links on its home page to pages detailing Smith's work with Randall Terry, as well as OverturnRoe.com (which has a home-page button labeled "Sign up for Randall Terry's email list"). One video of Smith featured on her Web site describes her as a "team leader" for Terry's group, Insurrecta Nex. Another link brings the viewer to a page that details Smith's participation in Terry's protests of President Obama's speech at Notre Dame University.

While leaders of the John Paul II Cultural Center -- run by four Catholic bishops -- may have banned Randall Terry from participating in their March for Life events, but they appear to have entered into a partnership with one of his most zealous lieutenants.

As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops renews its offensive on the anti-abortion language in the heath-care legislation soon to be finalized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, four of those bishops appear to have given their seal of approval to a group whose leader gloated over the killing of Dr. George Tiller, a gynecologist who performed late-term abortions in Kansas, and called on anti-abortion activists to next "get" Dr. LeRoy Carhart, who performs similar services at his Nebraska clinic.

Missy Smith, a stalwart member of Insurrecta Nex -- Randall Terry's merry band of anti-choice hecklers and street clowns -- announced plans yesterday to conduct a training session for her own organization, W.A.K.E. U.P., at Washington, D.C.'s John Paul II Cultural Center, an institution presided over by four bishops, including Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington. (The other members include John Myers, archbishop of Newark, N.J.; Bernard Harrington, bishop of Winona, Minn.; and Cardinal Adam Maida, the retired archbishop of Detroit.) Among the speakers on Smith's program is Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, who famously called Tiller "a mass murderer," adding that Tiller, who was killed in cold blood, had "reaped what he sowed." Susan Gibb, communications director for the archdiocese of Washington, refused comment on whether Archbishop Wuerl approved of the use of the Cultural Center by Smith and Terry, though she made the point that it was Smith, not Terry, who booked the facility.

George Tiller's patients often traveled long distances to avail themselves of his services, since he was one of a handful of doctors willing to perform late-term abortions, usually to women who learned late in their pregnancies that the fetuses they were carrying were severely deformed and would not survive very long, if at all, outside the womb. For prospective parents left to make excruciating choices, Tiller provided services believed to promote healing, such as funerary services for the fetus, as well as allowing the parents to be photographed with the fetus. Anti-choice extremists often point to these acts of mercy as evidence of Tiller's "evil"; he is misrepresented as a bloodthirsty criminal who took joy in committing macabre acts with "dead babies."

Since Tiller's murder, one of the few remaining abortion providers to offer late-term abortions is Dr. LeRoy Carhart of Nebraska, for whom two Supreme Court cases about the issue of late-term abortions are named.

Two weeks after Tiller was gunned down while ushering a church service, Missy Smith addressed a June training session for Insurrecta Nex activists. 

"So, we’re all here to march on and to stop the slaughter of these little babies," she said. "And to tell the truth, the biggest part is to use -- tell everyone what Tiller did. Most of America doesn’t know that he took these dead babies and dressed them up in christening dresses and took their pictures. Most Americans believe, because of the liberal press, that he was a wonderful, martyred person, you know, who did -- you have to kill a baby, don’t you, when a woman’s nine months pregnant -- you just have to do it? I mean, most people believe that. And now we’ve got to get Carhart."

With that, she left the podium in a meeting room at the Arlington, Virginia Doubletree Hotel to appreciative applause.

I learned of Missy Smith's planned appearance at the Cultural Center from a press release sent by Randall Terry, who noted that he would be a speaker on Smith's program, along with two of his regular activists. The program coincides with the annual March for Life in Washington, an event where anti-choice activists mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

At present, no one appears to want to take responsibility for allowing Smith's group to contract the facilities at the John Paul II Cultural Center. When I called the Cultural Center in the evening (I didn't receive Terry's release until after closing time), I could find no one in the directory whose obvious responsibility was facilitating use of the center by outside groups. I left a message for a Brother John who oversees something called the Intercultural Forum. I received a voice mail from Brother John in the morning directing me to contact Missy Smith with any questions about Randall Terry's inclusion on her program.

I called Smith, as well as John Sanders, the director of facilities for the John Paul II Cultural Center, but as of press time I had not heard back from either of them.

Archbishop Donald Wuerl sits on the center's four-bishop executive committee, so his spokesperson seemed an appropriate contact for any comment the archbishop wanted to make about the use of the Cultural Center by Missy Smith and Randall Terry. But archdiocese communications director Susan Gibbs grew testy with me when I pressed for comment as to whether or not the archbishop approved of Smith and Terry's training session at the center, saying only that the executive committee has nothing to do with the day-to-day operation of the Cultural Center. When I pressed to get a comment on whether Wuerl judged Terry to be an appropriate guest for the center, Gibb simply repeated her claim that the executive committee is not involved in the Cultural Center's bookings.

"I'm sorry if you don't understand that," Gibbs said. But she didn't disavow Smith or Terry in the archbishop's name, and instead used Smith as her line of defense, saying that it wasn't Randall Terry who booked the facilities, it was Missy Smith. The same Missy Smith who told Insurrecta Nex activists that it was time to "get" LeRoy Carhart, presumably in the same way that George Tiller was gotten.

Randall Terry, the antiabortion extremist who founded Operation Rescue (and then was ousted from the group) has been a busy man since moving to Washington, D.C. last year. Most of his activities have focused on President Barack Obama: heckling the president and his nominees in various venues, and performing street theater that features a white man wearing an Obama mask while turning a bullwhip on his confederates. Another Terry street-theater act involves the stabbing of plastic baby dolls and the profligate use of fake blood.

On the day that Tea Party activists rallied against health-care reform legislation, Terry staged a skit outside a Senate office building in which he was costumed as the devil, while activists donning the masks of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid pretended to be writhing in the fires of Hell.

It was Terry who organized the heckling of the president during his address at Notre Dame, a Catholic university, and Terry who dogs Catholic bishops he deems insufficiently pro-life with protests outside their chanceries. Missy Smith was arrested for civil disobedience at Notre Dame with Terry and former U.N. Ambassador Alan Keyes. Since that time, Smith told the gathering of Insurrecta Nex activists last June, she had joined Terry in "six or seven protests."

This is the same Randall Terry who sent his minions into the Senate to disrupt the nomination hearings of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a practicing Catholic.

While it's likely that the bishops who lead the John Paul II Cultural Center were unaware of Smith's partnership with Terry when she booked the center's conference facilities for her training session, the refusal of Archbishop Wuerl's spokesperson to disavow them is troubling, especially given Terry's violent rhetoric and racist depictions of the president.

For Randall Terry, a talented strategist, the controversy surrounding Missy Smith's training session at the John Paul II Cultural Center is a win whether the bishops allow her to hold the training or not. If they kick her out, they bolster Terry's argument that the bishops aren't really committed to "protecting the unborn;" if they permit his group to use the facilities, Insurrecta Nex -- of which Missy Smith is an integral part -- receives a de facto seal of approval from the church.

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