The Next Generation of the Pro-Life Movement

While old-timers, like Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, are running about the nation’s capital trying to make some noise while the Senate Judiciary committee considers the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and a handful of pro-choice and anti-abortion advocates grapple with some of the so-called “common ground” raised by President Obama, several longtime anti-abortion groups are out recruiting and training young activists to carry their anti-abortion work well into the twenty-first century.

These days, the anti-abortion banner—and an accompanying set of horrific graphics—is not only being waved on college campuses and at Planned Parenthood and other health care clinics across this country, it recently was on full display in the Dominican Republic.

Earlier this year, as millions eagerly anticipated (or dreaded) the Obama inauguration, a team of anti-abortion activists led by Keith Mason of the Arvada, Colorado-based Personhood USA, Ignacio Reyes, director of the San Jose-based Live Action, and Jason Storms, founder director of the Faithful Soldier School of Evangelism, took off for the Dominican Republic. Their mission was to proclaim the gospel, and to publicly support an anti-abortion addition to the Dominican Constitution. (Unlike some other countries in Latin America where abortion is permitted if the life of the mother is in danger, abortion in the Dominican Republic is illegal in all circumstances.)

Since the trip garnered no mainstream media attention and relatively little play in the movement media, a month after returning to the states Jason Storms posted trip details at a blog called “Faithful Soldier School of Evangelism and Discipleship.”

Upon arriving in the Dominican Republic, the group held a press conference (attended by “twenty media outlets from around the nation”), representing themselves as the Alliance for Life, “a multinational pro-life association with members born in Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, as well as the U.S.”

“We made the statement that abortion is murder, it is a violation of the Law of God and is an extreme form of violence against women that MUST remain illegal in the DR!,” Storms wrote. He reported that the team “spoke” at three public high schools, “preach[ed] the gospel, show[ed] graphic abortion videos, talk[ed] about abstinence, purity until marriage, biblical manhood, and hammer[ed] against sin, while principals, teachers, administrators looked on applauding!!!”

Unlike in the United States, Storms pointed out, “No one got angry, no one got offended, no one threw a temper tantrum because we mentioned God in school or showed ‘horrific’ images of what goes on inside the closed doors of abortion clinics.”

The group also “preach[ed]” at a “major prison” and three local churches, distributed almost 60,000 “hard-hitting tracts,” and “saturated the media for a full week.” Two months later Metro Catholic reported that by a 167 to 32 vote, “legislators permanently enshrined the right to life for pre-born humans by rewriting the Constitution of the Dominican Republic with the words ‘the right to life is inviolable from conception until death.’”

Committed Anti-Abortion Activists Reject “Common Ground” and Common Grounders

The Dominican mission’s organizers may be relatively unknown to the public, but they are part of a network of committed activists who reject any notion of “common ground.” Keith Mason’s Personhood USA describes itself as “a grassroots Christian organization founded to establish personhood efforts across America to create protection for every child by love and by law.”

Earlier this month, Personhood USA, along with the American Life League, launched personhood initiatives in Colorado and Montana “seek[ing] the passage of state Constitutional amendments that would define every human being as a human person under state law, from the beginning of their biological development,” an American Life League report declared.

Live Action was founded by anti-abortion celebrity Lila Rose, who has won major movement support for her surreptitious visits to Planned Parenthood offices where she tries to lure Planned Parenthood volunteers or staffers into counseling her to lie about her partner’s age while posing as a pregnant minor.

Faithful Soldier School of Evangelism is a ministry of Mercy Seat Christian Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which describes itself as “a short-term evangelism and discipleship training school.”

A former resident of the Dominican Republic and a longtime researcher into the activities of the religious right told me that Mason and Storms were both once involved in Jeff White’s group, Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust. White, who has been long involved in anti-abortion battles and is the former head of Operation Rescue California, is the founder of the Survivors, a group that trains young anti-abortion activists to spread the message at college campuses across the country.

Late last month, Survivors sponsored the “Southern California Rally for Life,” whose theme was “Building a culture of life during the Obama presidency.” The organization is currently recruiting young men and women for its Fall 2009 “Campus Life Tour.” According to its Web site, the “team consists of 8-10 young men and women (18-30 years of age), traveling throughout the United States with educational displays designed to introduce the abortion debate to high school and college campuses.”

The Survivor team “challenge[s] students to rethink their position on abortion at hundreds of campuses every year,” and uses displays that include “graphic images of abortion, descriptions/photos of fetal development and abortion techniques, and [information about the] factual consequences of abortion.”

In late June and early July, the Survivors conducted their annual “ProLife Training Camp 2009” in Los Angeles. “Known nationally as the pro-life ‘boot camp,’ Survivors ProLife Training Camps have equipped hundreds of high school and college students to be effective voices for the pre-born,” the Survivors’ Web site states.

From preparing a press release to sharing the truth of abortion on a street corner, the Survivors are trained as warriors of the highest caliber. Through the signature combination of classroom teaching and hands-on experience, the Survivors ProLife Training Camps are producing pro-life leaders for the next generation.

Training topics included:

• “Why Pro-Life? The Basics, The Woman, The Child: A full-day introduction to the abortion debate.”

• “The Abortion Industry: …no one can fight an effective battle without first knowing the opposition. From abortion methods to abortion providers and promoters, the dark history and current status of the abortion industry in America is exhaustively examined.”

• “Persuasively Defending Life: In-depth apologetics and ambassadorship. Preparing you to represent the plight of the pre-born in any situation, teaching you to engage in effectively dialogue with the ultimate goal of impacting hearts and minds.”

• “Activating Your Community: Taking the initiative, starting pro-life groups, engaging and activating your peers in their hometowns.”

• “Media: From online resources to traditional print, television, and radio, utilizing the power of the media to consistently present the message of life to the American people.”

• “Sidewalk Counseling: Because the sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic is the last line of defense for a pre-born child and his mother, experienced sidewalk counselors will equip you to lovingly reach out to women with hope and alternatives to abortion.

• “Legal Rights: What you should know as an activist about the Constitution, state and local laws, and how to interact with police at a pro-life event. Knowing your rights is crucial if you are to be an effective and unflinching voice for the pre-born!”

There’s even a short “ProLife Training Camp” promotional video:

The Faithful Soldier School of Evangelism’s Jason Storms is married to Sara Trewhella, a longtime anti-abortion activist and the daughter of Matt Trewhella, founder and head of the militant anti-abortion group Missionaries to the Preborn. Matt Trewhella once urged anti-abortion activists to get involved in militias. On Facebook, Storms also claims to be a ”fan” of Gun Owners of America, an organization headed by Larry Pratt, who has spoken before neo-Nazis and members of the Christian Identity movement.

Earlier this month, Trewhella posted a note at ProLifeAmerica.com reporting that there was “Great news from the Dominican Republic regarding the continued battle on behalf of the pre-born and keeping the pro-life tenet of the new Constitution.” In a P.S., Trewhella asked supporters to:

Pray for the lesser-magistrates in Honduras who are doing right—and for doing right have the one-worlders and socialists lining up against them from around the world, including our own nation and president.

In February 2004, Matt Trewhella, Mason, Storms, and Michael Marcavage, another longtime anti-gay activist, protested gay marriage at San Francisco’s City Hall, where they were arrested. Marcavage is the head of an entity called Repent America. In a February 2005 interview with the Philadelphia City Paper, Marcavage declared that “Homosexuals are to be put to death,” and “The wages of sin is death.” He went on: “But I want to make it clear that I’m not advocating the independent killing of homosexuals… I’m saying that the Government’s duty is to uphold God’s law.”

“The thing that is most interesting is that these young, militant antis, including Lila Rose, are working together,” my source, who preferred to remain anonymous, told me. “From pictures and online accounts you can see that they are also interacting with older, more experienced anti-choice and anti-gay leaders like Trewhella, White, Denny Green of Life and Liberty Ministries and Bruce Murch of Full Quiver Mission.”

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Read all of Bill Berkowitz?s articles here and sign up for his RSS feed here. *** Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer and longtime observer of the conservative movement.