Storming the Gates of Hell, From Louisiana to Mississippi
Max Blumenthal printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 06:16:15 AM EST
The abortion bans recently enacted in South Dakota and Louisiana seem to have taken a lot of people by surprise. A bill emerges suddenly from some statehouse packed with ornery right-wingers, some mediocre governor signs it, and progressives spend the morning after wondering what the hell happened, or simply dismiss the state as a distant redoubt of fundamentalism. Analysis of the long-term strategy that made it possible for such draconian bills to become law is hard to come by. And without an understanding of the origins and history of this kind of legislation, it is difficult to map out a way to stifle it. Meanwhile, more and more states seem poised to pass bans of their own.
As I wrote last year year for The Nation in my piece, "Good Cop, Bad Cop," anti-abortion forces planted their seeds in Louisiana in 1992 when the militant anti-abortion group Operation Rescue declared its intention to shut down Baton Rouge's lone abortion clinic. Announcing a "Summer of Purpose," Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry ushered hundreds of protesters to the gates of Baton Rouge's Delta Women's Clinic, where they taunted young women entering the clinic, imitating the voices of babies as they screamed, "Mom, don't murder me!" They eventually attempted to storm the clinic gates and shut it down by force. Their efforts were repelled only by a massive show of force by the Baton Rouge police and scores of clinic escorts who linked arms, forming a human chain to stop the protesters' advance. Among the protesters was Tony Perkins, a young cop moonlighting as a reporter for Woody Vision, a right-wing local TV network run by Republican state senator Woody Jenkins. After being suspended by the Baton Rouge PD for his role in the Summer of Purpose -- while "reporting" on the protest for Woody Vision, he failed to warn his superiors on the police force of Operation Rescue's plan to storm the clinic -- Perkins promptly embarked on a political career. His golden boy looks and mild-mannered style made him the perfect stealth candidate. With Operation Rescue's newly minted activist network assisting his campaign, Perkins secured a seat in the Louisiana House. Perkins distinguished himself in the statehouse by introducing a constant stream of bills imposing absurd builiding code restrictions on the Delta Women's Clinic. He even showed video on the House floor depicting allegedly unsanitary conditions in the clinic in an attempt to close the clinic on the basis of health code violations. Perkins' clever strategy served as an inspiration to Republican legislators in Mississippi seeking to shut down their state's only abortion clinic. As the Frontline documentary, "The Last Abortion Clinic" showed, anti-abortion figure in Mississippi state government have attempted to regulate the Jackson Women's Clinic to death. Perkins is now president of America's largest and most influential Christian right lobbying firm/think tank, the Family Research Council. Though he is best known for organizing the heavily promoted "Justice Sunday" rallies for George W. Bush's judicial picks, Perkins wields enormous influence at the state level. Through an extensive network of pastors that Perkins briefs each week and through the Louisiana Family Forum, a state-level affiliate of James Dobson's Focus on the Family, Perkins and his allies flexed their muscle to generate a symbolic ban on abortion in the Bayou. The trajectory of Perkins' career demonstrates the long-term implications of the violent Summer of Purpose. The violent anti-abortion protests of the 1990's were more than mere outbursts of fundamentalist rage; they marked the deliberate execution of a strategy outlined in theologian Francis Schaeffer's bestselling 1981 book, A Christian Manifesto, in which Schaeffer urged Christians to employ anti-abortion civil disobedience as a means of challenging the legitimacy of secular government. Without Randall Terry's deployment of Schaeffer's strategy during the Summer of Purpose (Terry has openly acknowledged Schaeffer's influence on him), it is possible that neither Perkins' political ascendency or Louisiana's recent abortion ban would have been achieved. The plan that began at the gates of Delta Women's Clinic was fulfilled on Gov. Kathleen Blanco's desk last week. Now, the anti-abortion movement's militant wing has turned its sights on Mississippi. From July 15-22, a group directed by Terry's longtime associate, Flip Benham, called Operation Save America will converge on the Jackson Women's Clinic to relive the violent glory of Operation Rescue. This is the language Benham uses to describe a campaign he has dubbed "The Gentle Revolution": "Join the church of Jesus Christ allows her wonderful theology to come out of churchhouse and become biography in the streets. We're going to storm the gates of Hell and we're going to pray that God pushes abortion into a grave... And then the laws of our land will reflect the battle that was won in the streets." Benham's strategy (merely an extension of Schaeffer's strategy) is implicit in his rhetoric. While many of Save America's volunteers genuinely believe they could forcibly shut down Jackson Women's Clinic, Benham knows he must foment a spectacle wild enough to spur sympathetic state lawmakers to go for broke. The law "won in the streets" would come in the form of a bill similar to that recently passed in Louisiana. If such a bill lands on Republican Gov. Haley Barbour's desk, which could happen as soon as next January, he will undoubtedly sign it. Because abortion bans like Louisiana's are invariably the product of long-term grassroots campaigns, it is important to counter them with a proactive response. The Christian right has selected the Jackson Women's Clinic as the next battleground in its war on reproductive rights. Whether by volunteering as a clinic escort, supporting the clinic financially or drawing attention the inevitably violent and theologically contradictory tactics of the demonstrators who will gather outside it this July, pro-choice forces can not afford to cede an inch.

The South Dakota abortion ban inspired Cecelia Fire Thunder, president of the Oglala Sioux Nation, to call for a clinic to be built on the reservation. It is, she says, the start of a quiet revolution. She now faces impeachment.


"I got really angry about a bunch of white guys making decisions about my body,"  Fire Thunder said.

Abortion, Fire Thunder said, is part of the aboriginal right of tribal women throughout North America.

Until the advent of missionaries and their boarding schools a century ago, the knowledge of terminating pregnancies, both
physically and spiritually, was passed down through women's societies.


by Vesica on Tue Jun 27, 2006 at 03:00:48 PM EST

Louisiana's Summer of Purpose demonstrated how Operation Rescue used clinic blockades to expand the Christian right's grassroots apparatus. Sam Brownback credits his career to OR's Spring to Life in Wichita, and Kansas AG Phil Kline is also a beneficiary of OR's efforts in the state. My overall point is that many of the Christian right's greatest legislative and electoral victories have been facilitated by aggressive and even violent grassroots campaigns. What happens in Mississippi when Benham and co. arrive may confirm this unless there is an effective progressive response.

by Max Blumenthal on Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 04:54:22 PM EST

Mississippi's last clinic providing abortion care [italics indicate hyperlinks I have added to the original text]:

Flip Benham and Operation Rescue (or Operation Save America at are planning a protest in Jackson, Mississippi at Jackson Women's Health Organization ( for the week of July 15-22.

The frightening words from their website:
"The Gentle Revolution is making its way toward Jackson, Mississippi, this year, July 15-22, 2006. Pro-life leaders from across our nation will be joining us at the "last abortion mill " in the state of Mississippi. We will be storming the gates of hell in the strong Name of Jesus Christ. Little did any of us know, as we ran to the roar to help those devastated by Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi and Louisiana, that God was preparing us to return to Mississippi to deal with an even more deadly foe - Abortion!"

They recently picketed the Raleigh Women's Health Organization ( and Susan Hill's home in Raleigh NC.  This is also the same group that attacked Dr. Warren Hern in Boulder last Summer.

On behalf of Susan Hill and the rest of the staff, we appreciate the concern and outrage of all who want to help with this effort in Jackson.  Fortunately, many of the events staged by anti-abortionists recently have fallen flat and have not attracted the numbers they have been claiming.  We do want to be ever vigilant, and to this extent we'd like for anyone wanting to assist in the defense of JWHO to contribute to our security efforts.

We're requesting that there be no large counter demonstrations near the clinic during clinic hours.  There will be pro-choice events throughout the week at the clinic and in other parts of Jackson, but the area around the clinic is small and not conducive to large groups of people.  Patients don't have to walk in a public area from their cars to the clinic.  Our clinic parking lot is attached to the building, so there is no need for escorts.   In our experience, patients aren't able to distinguish between anti-abortion and pro-choice demonstrators, so any increase in numbers will only confuse them and make their access and comfort more difficult.

If you'd like to contribute to [the security] effort, please send contributions to:

National Women's Health Foundation
% Raleigh Women's Health Organization
    3613 Haworth Drive
    Raleigh, NC  27609

We promise that 100% of your contribution will go directly to security efforts at Jackson Women's Health Organization.  

Again, we appreciate everyone's volunteerism and energy, and hope for a peaceful week in Jackson.

As you have so rightly said, Max, they can use all the help they can get. Thank you for keeping this story on the front page.

by moiv on Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 09:42:59 PM EST

for keeping this story on the front page.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Jun 20, 2006 at 10:25:36 PM EST

If a person is able to step back and look at the picture, this whole area of reproductive control seems to get its life from personalities who are pathologically orientated---pathological in that they are not emotionally capable of compassion,  the selection of reasonable priorities, or seeing anyone else's needs.  For whatever reason, it is absolutely necessary for them to rule, and they are more than willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want (which seems to include violence and even murder).  Unfortunately many of our high governmental positions get filled by this type of person and most of their followers also seem incapable of reason.

To counteract this aggressiveness in savvy ways that do not compromise our own values, takes a great deal of energy, alertness, and street wisdom as well as heart. We need to understand the thinking of these people so well that we can predict exactly what they will think and do, long before they do it---be so far ahead of them with effective actions they are neutralized before they can even get started.  

That will take an ability not to panic, or to become so angry that we are not able to see the most effective means at our disposal.  It will take numbers of people willing to forget ego long enough to cooperate.  It will take coming together with useful information, the ability to encourage thinking out side the box, and the creativity for powerful strategies that don't succumb to ideas from the dark side.

There are creditable publications and experienced resource people who should be sought out.  Experience is essential for there are many areas of a revolution which can cause serious mistakes and terrible discouragement and burnout.  The extreme right is willing to destroy even the planet we live on---the world we live in, because doing so is part of its dogmatic religious or power-structure belief system.  We need to be able to think better than that---hold the raging child with its kicking feet off the ground and its swinging arms out of reach until it is completely dismantled of its energy.  And we need to pull the carpet out from under the shadowed ones so sure of their own cleverness and authority.

These destructive children, and the dark lords will be reading books that tell them how to grab power----THE PORTABLE MACHIAVELLI, (the bible of all power-happy people), THE 48 LAWS OF POWER by Robert Greene, POWER PLAYS by Dick Morris.  It is also smart for the wise Rebel to understand these books too---to know how these children work.  But the wise Rebel will also be reading THE INTERNATIONAL BILL OF HUMAN RIGHTS, COMPELLED TO CONTROL by J. Keith Miller, HOW CAN ONE SELL THE AIR? by Chief Seattle, DOING DEMOCRACY by Bill Moyer
Gene Sharp has written several books:
SOCIAL POWER and POLITICAL FREEDOM THE POLITICS OF NONVIOLENT ACTION parts one, two and three, and GANDHI as a POLITICAL STRATEGIST, THE ARROGANCE OF POWER by Senator J. William Fulbright.  It would also be good to understand the history of the Iroquois and how they were able to form the league that peacefully governed so many strong and powerful tribes.  Lots of information out there.

by TallTrees on Thu Aug 31, 2006 at 03:30:37 PM EST

Sorry about that---the title of the subject is certainly misleading.  I meant War on Reproductive Rights

Tall Trees

by TallTrees on Sat Sep 02, 2006 at 01:03:54 AM EST

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