NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, September 24th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a conversation with a pro-life activist whose methods became well known.
Before I go any further, a warning: graphic descriptions ahead. So if you have young ones around, this is the time to press pause and come back later.
This man is a litigant in an ongoing lawsuit you’ve seen in the news, so I recently went to Wichita, Kansas, for a face-to-face interview.
NEWMAN: My name is Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue. Co-founder of the Center for Medical Progress.
Ever since the 1990s, Newman’s had just one goal…
NEWMAN: To end abortion. To end the horror of child killing.
Newman’s connection to the issue is personal. He was adopted at birth in 1966. He eventually found his birth parents and reconnected. His birth mother survives today at age 80.
NEWMAN: We’d simply contacted her and I just wanted to say “thank you.” I’m steeped in the pro-life movement. I know how important it is to be a birth mom…I’m deeply grateful to you and just wanted to say thank you. And she said I’ve thought about you every day since I gave birth.
Believe it or not, Newman didn’t think much about the pro-life cause until he was a young adult. It all started on a trip to a beach with his young wife. A stranger came up to him and just started talking.
NEWMAN: And he sees that I have a Christian bumper sticker, and he says, “Hey!” His name is Peter French. He says, “I just got out of jail.” And I thought, “Well, time to pack up and get outta here.” And he says, no, I was with Operation Rescue.
Newman had never heard of Operation Rescue.
Not long after, his new friend took Newman to his first Operation Rescue event. It made a strong impression that became a turning point in his life.
NEWMAN: Guys were physically blocking the doors of an abortion clinic while others prayed and sought to give counseling to the women seeking abortions. And then there were a massive amount of people we’d call pro-aborts, or pro-abortion people angrily chanting and yelling and…doing very foul, sexually explicit, suggestive things. And for me it was an eye-opener, because all of a sudden this gray world, you know, just turned black and white.
For the first time, Newman says he understood the evil of abortion. That event shook him out of his complacency.
Twenty-eight years later, he still remembers when he saw a photograph of an aborted baby.
NEWMAN: It immediately brought me back to the pictures of the Holocaust that we had all seen in high school. And I said, this is a terrible injustice. It’s evil. And so I immediately scheduled a meeting with my pastor and I started talking to all my friends…
Newman came away from those conversations knowing he had to do something.
NEWMAN: I was shocked and dismayed and disappointed and heartbroken that so many people knew about it and were completely ambivalent or played the ping pong game. The pastor said that this was a political problem and my politicians said it was a pastoral problem and they bounced it back and forth and nobody wanted to touch it.
Early on, those rescue attempts were organized by disparate groups, more of an organic movement than a central organization directing things. Eventually the groups either merged or split off.
Newman became the president of Operation Rescue in 1999.
His focus became clear quickly.
NEWMAN: Within five years of a targeted campaign to really pray for in their neighborhoods and expose the people who are doing abortions, we ended up closing like 12 abortion clinics in Southern California—just in San Diego—and 30 some odd abortionists stopped doing abortions, and that really has been a trend that we’ve been seeing ever since.
During that time, Newman did things that some say led others to extreme actions, even violence. A Wichita abortionist was the focus of an Operation Rescue campaign to publicize who was doing abortions.
In 2009, a man shot and killed abortionist George Tiller in Wichita while Tiller sat in church.
Newman’s tactics and rhetoric have caused many even within the pro-life movement to decry his methods. Some say he lacks compassion for women in crisis pregnancies.
NEWMAN: Look, we’re sitting right now in a closed abortion clinic that we closed and we’re 15, 20 feet away from a pregnancy counseling center that loves women into keeping their baby. But they’re also not afraid to show them pictures of what their baby would look like had they had an abortion…
Newman insists pro-lifers must have compassion for women facing unplanned pregnancies—but along with that, rebuke those who promote and conduct abortions.
NEWMAN: What that does is it closes abortion clinics. It forces abortionists out of business…we’re hitting the supply side of the abortion industry with a sledge hammer and that’s having a direct result on the number of children that are being murdered. We at Operation Rescue have gone out of our way to expose the malfeasance, the deeds of the devil. And I use that word intentionally…they’re demonic. They’re murdering children. And these people literally dismember babies and see the blood, the entrails, the body parts and sell them on the open market. It’s a demonic activity and they collect money for it. I believe we can end abortion with every law that’s already on the books, if we simply enforce it.
Newman’s frequently made inflammatory statements that others have used against him and the pro-life movement. As he gets older, he says he does have regrets…
NEWMAN: There’s a lot I regret that I did and said. I had somebody come to me the other day that told me something that I had said to them over 25 years ago. I can’t even remember having the conversation and apparently wasn’t very nice, and it stuck with them all these years. How can you go back and repair the biting words that you used to cut people down and break their heart?
I asked Newman whether he’d repented for things he’d done wrong. He told me he asks for forgiveness every day.
NEWMAN: And I tell people, turn to Jesus, turn to him now. Be relieved! If you’ve got a burden of sin and regret and things that you’ve done, cast that off to the cross.
Newman is co-defendant in two separate racketeering lawsuits in California, stemming from his founding work with the Center for Medical Progress. Citizen journalists posed as procurers of fetal tissue for a made-up company and surreptitiously filmed Planned Parenthood executives haggling over prices for the body parts of aborted babies.
I asked about the toll this has taken.
NEWMAN: I mean it, it does take its toll…So you have to be prayed up and read up. You have to pray. You have to continually repent. You have to stay close to the Word of God. You have to be plugged into a good church.
Troy Newman and his several co-defendants are gearing up for trial, beginning October 2nd.