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Posted at 1:31 PM ET, 11/24/2010

Activist Randall Terry wants to take graphic abortion ads nationwide in 2012

By Mike DeBonis


Last month, Washington-area residents watched dozens of TV commercials that featured gruesome images of aborted fetuses. In two years, many more Americans might be faced with similar ads if a prominent anti-abortion activist makes good on his plans.

Randall Terry -- the fiery activist who recruited D.C. resident Missy Reilly Smith to run for congressional delegate, thus clearing access to the airwaves -- announced this week that he plans to recruit candidates to run for Congress in the nation's 25 largest media markets, expressly to air graphic TV commercials.

And Terry, whose group Operation Rescue pioneered in-your-face abortion clinic protests in the late '80s, is also considering a run for president in 2012 -- which would give him the ability, he said, to run a commercial in the most coveted airtime in American television: during the Super Bowl.

The ads take advantage of a little-known legal provision barring broadcast TV stations from altering the content of political advertisements. Prior to the election, at least two dozen ads aired on broadcast and cable stations in the area, usually preceded by a disclaimer inserted by the stations. The impact of the ads were amplified by the news coverage of the attendant controversy.

The ads "did exactly what they were supposed to do," Terry said. "Missy's ad got more pro-life debate, more pro-life press ... in a two and a half weeks than all other pro-life news that I know of in the whole country."

Smith, running as a Republican, got only 6 percent of the vote against incumbent Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton.

The ad strategy comes out of a deliberate attempt by Terry to emulate "the social revolutions of the past" -- he mentioned the American Revolution and the civil rights movement in an interview at his Northern Virginia home Friday.

"I have no question that child-killing will not be ended until America has a crisis of conscience brought about by seeing the babies," he said. "If I run for the presidency, it will be to bring America face to face with dead babies."

Terry is no stranger to controversy and attention; in addition to his high-profile abortion clinic campaigns in the '80s and early '90s, he was prominent in the Terri Schiavo case and recently led opposition to President Obama's address at the University of Notre Dame last year. By his own accounting, he has been arrested 50 times and spent more than a year of his life in jail.

"I know how to not be ignored," he said.

Terry is highly critical of mainstream anti-abortion organizations, which have mostly eschewed shock tactics in recent years. His challenge will be not only recruiting candidates willing to absorb the opprobrium of outraged TV viewers, but also to raise enough money to air ads in the nation's most expensive 25 markets. He said he could raise "millions" from dedicated abortion foes across the country.

Terry said last week that Smith was able to raise more than $60,000 in less than three weeks. Reports thus far filed with the Federal Election Commission show only about $25,000 in donations, though they do not include contributions less than $1,000. Most of the fund-raising reported by Smith came from donors in the Washington area.

In a mailing sent to his followers this week, Terry invites potential candidates to visit the D.C. area in early January to find out more. He also asks them to pray about his possible presidential run.

Terry has considered his options, but has yet to work out the logistics of actually getting on the presidential ballot in enough states, nor has he decided which party he will run under. (He ran as a Republican for a congressional seat in his native upstate New York in 1998, losing in the primary.)

"Being in one of the two major parties for the primary for the primary is more appealing to me because I can run an ad in the AFC championship or the NFC championship or the Super Bowl," he said. "That's the coup de grace."

File photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post

By Mike DeBonis  | November 24, 2010; 1:31 PM ET
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If fetuses are people, as these folks say, why are they broadcasting their mutilated bodies for all to see as though they were dead animals on the side of the road?

Have some freaking respect for the dead. Holy cow.

Posted by: Akinoluna | November 24, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if we will be treated to footage of assassinations and bombings as well. This Guy is a terrorist.

Posted by: Provincial | November 24, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

This guy is every bit as classy as Fred Phelps....

Posted by: rwolf01 | November 24, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Terry will end up desensitizing and alienating the very people whom he hopes to persuade.

Posted by: Bridge3263 | November 24, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Reading these "aghast" reactions to Randall Terry's ad strategy reveals the alternate reality in which so many of easily dwell. To wit, we're not shocked at the actuality of something so gruesome as abortion. Instead, we're shocked only when we see images portraying same.

I remember talking with some folks who were unable to bear the horror depicted in the first 45 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. "If you thought the movie was too violent," I said, "you should have been there. In person it was REALLY hell."

It makes no difference if you're "pro choice" or "pro-life." Abortion is regarded as a violent, gruesome and terrible practice and no woman, no matter what she "projects" to her peers, is able to dismiss the procedure without deep and enduring emotional and spiritual pain. I've worked as a counselor in this field and I know of what I speak.

So, for those of you who are incensed at these images, I would simply say, perhaps you should check your conscience. If you're not appalled by the real thing, then you might want to spend some time analyzing what sensitivities of yours are really offended. May I suggest the images are the only time some are brought face to face with the reality of this horrible practice and, instead of dealing with that reality, choose to shoot the messenger?

In brief, if you're offended by Terry and not by the actions he is protesting, you lack real standing to make any moral judgments against anyone for anything.

Posted by: toldyouso123 | November 24, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

They'll never outlaw coat hangers.

Posted by: nuke41 | November 24, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse


I am not personally concerned about seeing the images. I have seen dead people before, had a close personal friend literally die in my arms. I do think that we should also be allowed to see images of the MD’s being shot and bombs going off (think Olympics) as well.

This Guy is a terrorist. We should do this in a Fair and Balanced way.

Posted by: Provincial | November 24, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

If fetuses are people, as these folks say, why are they broadcasting their mutilated bodies for all to see as though they were dead animals on the side of the road?

Have some freaking respect for the dead. Holy cow.

Posted by: Akinoluna | November 24, 2010 3:00 PM


And yet opposition to the Vietnam War only really took off when brutal images were broadcast of executions and of victims of bombing attacks on villages. Opposition to the Holocaust never entirely catalyzed, in no small part because images from concentration camps never got out to the public until the end of WWII.

Does it dishonor the dead to show their bodies? Perhaps, if the display serves no good purpose. However, if these are human lives (and the slippery slope argument of defining the precise moment when a fetus becomes human for those who say it isn't ought to give everyone an uncomfortable pause), then Terry's purpose in showing the images is to prevent similar slaughter.

It's very easy for a society to kill millions when they never have to see the images of the dead. Confronting those images forces people in one of two directions, either to desensitize themselves completely in order to continue justifying their actions or complicity or else to agree with the moral imperative that the practice should end.

Imagine that you were the victim of a senseless, ongoing slaughter than could be stopped at any time if people would only choose to do so. If the display of images of your mangled body would help put an end to the slaughter, wouldn't you want your unavoidable death to be used to put an end to similar deaths? I think most people would, and once someone has made the judgment that aborted babies are human, and that abortion is therefore wrong, the moral justification to display those images of death is not at all hard to make.

In fact, keeping images of the slaughter under a continued veil of secrecy, thereby enabling the continued slaughter, may even be the greater moral offense.

Posted by: blert | November 24, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

This guy deserves the same treatment that Dr. Tiller got. He is responsible for Tiller's death as much as the guy who pulled the trigger.

Posted by: wensay | November 24, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse


I agree with the thrust of your comments. My questions are, why are we not allowed to see the carnage that we cause in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? Why are we not allowed to see the carnage that Israel causes in the Occupied Territories and Gaza? Why are we not allowed to see our fellow citizens dying in agony because they do not qualify for medical care?

But then, who wants to spend their time seeing such things. Oh, I know. The same people who took their pleasure in viewing the Aub Graib pictures or fantasizing about the descriptions of torture at Gitmo and elsewhere.

Posted by: Provincial | November 24, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

I doubt that TV stations will show gross commercials because parents would PROTEST these types of commercials.

Posted by: maritza1 | November 24, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

I don't worry about Terry because sane and decent folks know what he is. Just ask the women he was married to. Ask them how he treated them. Ask them where he gets his money since he never held down a real job. He uses people as suckers to fund his life and in truth abortion doesn't really worry him. It's his money maker.
He never once cared about Terry Schiavo when she lived in her vegetative state with her brain turned to soggy mush. He saw a chance to make money from her tragic situation and he took it.
Randall Terry would be a white supremacist in a heart beat if he saw the chance to make a quick buck.

This huckster should campaign to make all males be subject to a felony conviction for having sex outside the bonds of martrimony, thus taking the burden of abortion off the backs of the women they impregnate, that I'd like to see him do. But he wouldn't dare and neither would anyone opposed to abortion. They are making money from their heinous ravings and that is their bottom line. If they cared so much why are our orphanages and foster care overflowing. Terry is a fraud, a lazy fraud, like those religious hucksters who steal your money by promising they'll heal you and get you into heaven. fritz

Posted by: papafritz571 | November 25, 2010 1:22 AM | Report abuse

I can see that the libs, as usual, cannot confront reality. Hey, if you don't like seeing a small child having its brain sucked out and then its skull crushed in order to kill it, don't support such barbarity.


Although, ANYONE who supports the killing of small children by skull crushing is criminally insane to begin with. So, maybe not simple...

Posted by: illogicbuster | November 25, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Randall Terry as well as a host of other anti-abortionist do not have medical degrees. They do not know what the situation or the issue at hand that made abortion a consideration. Pregnancy is far from the risk free event that many think it is.

For some women pregnancy is like rolling out of bed in the morning; for others it is a strain on the bodies and because of hormonal imbalances can cause a host of illnesses - physical as well as mental.

What they are asking for is the right to supercede Physician/Patient confidentiality and make a medical decision for which they are not qualified.

The question is not about the morality of ending a pregnancy - the question is about privacy and confidentiality between a Doctor and their patient. Do we really want Congressional representatives making medical decisions for us?

Posted by: Tuathe | November 25, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Oh yes let hypocrite Terry run for Pres...what a race, Palin, Terry, and Obama...this could actually be entertaining.

Posted by: greeenmtns | November 25, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Let the Republican bloodletting begin!

Posted by: turningfool | November 25, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Feminists will protest guns (self defense), the death penalty, and free speech (that is, any speech they disapprove of), yet they will celebrate slaughtering the unborn is if it were some right of passage.

These ads are dead on and it is high time they were shown.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | November 25, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I can see that the blog was visited by some criminally insane libs since my last post.

Posted by: illogicbuster | November 25, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

"Gruesome"??? How about "Real"!!!

Posted by: houston123 | November 25, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

"Gruesome"??? How about "Real"!!!

Posted by: houston123 | November 25, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I never found the sight of blood and raw mammalian tissue to be attractive. So maybe Terry can cite a case where he's found one to be pretty.

Posted by: sperrico | November 25, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Toldyouso knows of what she/he speaks! To wit (since we're inserting sort of fakey legal lingo): 'no woman, no matter what she "projects" to her peers, is able to dismiss the procedure without deep and enduring emotional and spiritual pain.' Toldyouso, then, has interviewed all women who have had abortions and with that data has arrived at this conclusion, right? Toldyouso counsels people seeking counseling, not those who don't desire counseling. So Toldyouso, that would seem to indicate that the no woman statement you made is false, it's only YOUR OPINION and maybe based on pseudoscinece which dovetails nicely with the pseudo-legalese you've sprinkled through your dissertation. And while we're talking about reality or the lack thereof (legalese-ish lingo) why not mention the fact that images of abortion will be available whether or not it's a legal practice. I daresay gruesome images of women dead from sepsis will be even more available if legal abortion is no longer an option.

Posted by: Sam61 | November 25, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

This will definitely be where the Tea Party and I split ways. I can ignore many of their idiosyncrasies but no way no how will this terrorist be a front runner.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | November 25, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

A choice between Palin and Terry might make illogicbuster's miniscule head explode.

Pass the popcorn!

Posted by: Observer691 | November 25, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Feminists will protest guns (self defense), the death penalty, and free speech (that is, any speech they disapprove of), yet they will celebrate slaughtering the unborn is if it were some right of passage.

These ads are dead on and it is high time they were shown.

Posted by: RealTexan1 | November 25, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan are feminists?
You're an idiot and wouldn't know a feminist if you met one. Your own mother was more than likely a feminist who beat you down and now you seek to defame women who speak out and you hate that. Everything you've stated is a lie that you cannot prove but claim because you don't know any better. You have to crawl out of your tent in the woods before you know what women want. fritz

Posted by: papafritz571 | November 26, 2010 1:08 AM | Report abuse

Honestly, it's been proven that making abortion illegal does not decrease the number of abortions women get a year. Doesn't make a single little dent. What does happen is that the conditions women get abortions in become dirtier, darker and less safe. More women end up scarred, more become grievously ill, more die. That is why abortion needs to remain legal. Because when the decision comes down to a woman with a family, opinions and a life versus a fetus who might not make it to labor, might not survive labor and is, in fact, merely a potential until it is born, I'll take the woman every time.

Granted, I value women and life far more than Randall Terrorist Terry ever has, so that might color my decision.

Posted by: littlemissr17 | November 26, 2010 6:23 AM | Report abuse

Randall Terry is a zealot, pure and simple. I remember back when his group started tormenting women and blocking clinic entrances. It took a law to curb some of the worst abuses, but I am sure it still goes on. These ads are just a political stunt. They won't change anything and yes abortion is not pretty, but neither are back alley abortions or women being forced to have children against their will even if the children are the result of rape or incest. If the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe, it would go back to the states to decide and the rights of women to control their bodies would be dependent on geography and the politics of their states. Women in Texas and Alabama will be out of luck while women in California and New York will likely have access. In states where it is banned, abortion will not end. Women with means could travel to a state that allows abortion while poor women, the ones who usually most need them, will have to resort to back alley abortions or to having kids who are unwanted, unloved, and a drain on the taxpayers, many of whom will grow up to commit crime and clog our prisons. Which brings me to my final point, isn't it funny how all the anti-abortion nuts and their GOP boosters don't give a damn about kids once they are born? The same people who blather on about the rights and sanctity of the unborn are the same people voting to slash welfare, food stamps, education, and medical insurance programs for poor kids. I'd like to see Randall Terry raise a nickel to help them. Never will happen though as he is too busy trying to shock people with fetuses in jars. He can show me as many as he wants - it won't change a thing.

Posted by: da55 | November 26, 2010 6:59 AM | Report abuse

Since there seems to be some kind of law - nobody ever cites the code - preventing TV stations from refusing to take or edit political ads, I think I'll start the Hard Core Porn Party and buy air time so people can see full-penetration, happy ending pornography at dinner.

Posted by: DKB755 | November 26, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse

This sack of garbage is one faulty fetus that should have been aborted.

Posted by: analyst72 | November 26, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Dear all who hate Randall and the ugly images:

If the images are really ugly, then what are you doing to stop the daily slaughter of (4000) babies? Or do you think that the ugliness should continue to be legal?

For those who despise Randall or his methods: It seems from this and so many other recent mainstream media stories that real journalists take him seriously....Would you rather ignore this fact?

Try a "google news" search on "Randall Terry" (in quotes) and you might find that he's a bit smarter and than the average bear. won't do it? R U chicken? R U smarter than the journalists?

Posted by: garyboisclair | November 26, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

The last taboo is about to be broken. Abortion is such a cruel and violent act I'm amazed it's as common as it is. I suspect most women who have had one either have remorse or are at least ashamed of what they did.....but I'm just speculating because very few will admit to it or talk openly about it.

Posted by: hit4cycle | November 26, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

The 2011 Superbowl is SOLD OUT and has been since about Labor Day. Not an option for 2011.

Posted by: esteecee | November 29, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

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