Walking into the Family Research Council’s September Values Voters Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, attendees passed a large van parked on Calvert Avenue. On its back door was a gruesome two-panel illustration. One panel depicted a devil holding a mangled fetus in one hand, an ax in the other. The other panel featured a life-size photo of Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards with the caption, “Planned Parenthood M.U.R.D.E.R.” Meanwhile, a young man standing on the sidewalk held up a larger-than-life photo poster of an aborted fetus.
It was by no means the only image of its kind. Whether you were arriving in the morning, coming and going for lunch, or leaving in the evening, it was impossible to avoid the anti-abortion gore porn.
You get the picture. As did the Republican presidential candidates and 2,500 evangelical Christians, who paid anywhere from $500 for a VIP pass to $129 for an all-access badge for the three-day event. Students either paid $50 or were provided with “scholarships.”
Neither of the sidewalk pornography installations was sponsored by the FRC, although the organization did sponsor the event and holds many others like it across the country each year. But overheated opposition to abortion is what the FRC is about.
Its director, Tony Perkins, earned his bones covering anti-abortion protests at the Delta Women’s Clinic in Baton Rouge in 1992, as a reporter for a TV station owned by right-wing Louisiana politician Woody Jenkins. Perkins had also been a reserve officer on the Baton Rouge Police Force. He was suspended from duty for failing to inform his superiors of an anti-abortion activists’ plan, of which he was aware, to break through a police line protecting the clinic.
The public’s attention is predictably focused on the presidential candidates—and little else. Yet, it’s the FRC and other extremist evangelical organizations like it—Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition and Rev. Kevin Swanson’s National Religious Liberties Conference—that really shape the Republican Party’s position on women’s reproductive rights.
Attend one of their events and you will hear the candidates’ predictable tropes on abortion. Case in point:
Mike Huckabee: “End this horrible, uncivilized, savage behavior!”
Ted Cruz: “The second thing I intend to do on my first day in office is to instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood and these horrible videos, and to prosecute any and all criminal conduct by that organization.”
Rick Santorum: “Not only should we defund Planned Parenthood, we should be prosecuting Planned Parenthood.”
But it’s the sideshows at these Christian extremist gatherings—which I wouldn’t argue are representative of the faith—that inflame the base passions of the faithful.
David Daleiden, the founder of Center for Medical Progress—the organization that secretly videotaped Planned Parenthood executives discussing the harvesting of fetal body tissue and released carefully edited versions of those videos earlier this year—told the Values Voters audience that Planned Parenthood was engaging in “industrial scale child killing and organ harvesting in America . . . [and] that [it] hunts after their body parts like buried treasure.”
As the gathering wrapped up midday Saturday, right-wing columnist and one-time congressional candidate Star Parker further inflamed the passions of an already ramped-up audience.
Parker described in grisly detail the excerpts of testimony from the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted in 2013 of first-degree murder for killing viable babies at his West Philadelphia abortion clinic and prescription narcotics pill mill. Gosnell is serving a life sentence for operating an illegal abortion clinic that had no relationship with Planned Parenthood—a fact that Parker ignored.
“One baby was big enough to walk to the bus stop, and he slashed that little boy’s neck and tossed him in a shoe box,” she said.
She continued, describing parts of “47 babies in a freezer that had to be thawed out like a TV dinner.”
After painting a portrait of a gruesome medical practice that sent a physician to prison for life with no parole (Gosnell waived his right to appeal to avoid the death sentence), Parker seamlessly moved to Planned Parenthood.
“Did Congress pay attention to Gosnell?” she shouted. “See if there are any more Gosnells out there? . . . Planned Parenthood is still in business, the taxpayer-subsidized abortion business. And selling baby body parts.”
Star Parker, David Daleiden, Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, and one-time Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer*—they’re a traveling road show. Speech after speech, they’re creating a culture that will inevitably inflame the passions of that one angry man who picks up a gun and takes matters into his own hands.
Three people are dead in Colorado Springs and alleged domestic terrorist Robert Dear will end up in prison or a mental institution.
For these hucksters of anti-abortion hate, every month is another speaking gig.
*As I reported a year ago, Bauer notably told the audience at one of Ralph Reed’s events that “Few things make Barack Obama more passionate than abortion on demand.”