The extremist anti-choice group Operation Save America is making national headlines this week as it begins a week of protests aimed at shutting down the last remaining abortion clinic in Kentucky. The group has been testing the enforcement of the FACE Act, the federal law guaranteeing access to abortion clinics; 11 Operation Save America (OSA) members were arrested for blocking the doors of the Louisville clinic in May and the group has now agreed to abide by a temporary restraining order allowing access to the clinic during their protests—a decision that OSA is portraying as a victory.
OSA picked its target carefully: Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has also been taking aim at the Louisville clinic and personally met with OSA leadership when they held a planning meeting in February. In December, OSA’s Rusty Thomas wrote to his group’s supporters that he was also planning to “meet with a Congressman who is a dear Christian brother who is serious about restoring his state in righteousness. He has graciously offered his help to OSA in establishing our comings and goings in his state.”
OSA’s goal, however, involves more than shutting down the last abortion clinic in Kentucky. The group has been urging state officials to defy federal law on abortion rights altogether and refuse to enforce the protections of Roe v. Wade in their state. The primary advocate of this strategy is Matt Trewhella, a Wisconsin activist who signed a statement in the 1990s supporting the murder of abortion providers. Trewhella is a fixture at OSA events and spoke at a press conference with Thomas this week. Thomas has said that Bevin praised Trewhella’s book about defying federal laws on abortion rights and LGBTQ equality when he met the group in February.
Speaking to Slate’s Michelle Goldberg about Trewhella’s “Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates,” Thomas said, “It just appears that Kentucky may be the first ones who take it seriously enough to cross that line and finally do their duty in the midst of this Holocaust.”
In a press conference this week, Thomas insisted that it was the Supreme Court that had broken the law by ruling in favor of abortion rights: “We are not the lawbreakers. The Supreme Court are the lawbreakers. We are the law-keepers.”
At OSA’s national event in Wichita last year, the group held a mock trial in front of a federal courthouse in which it declared Supreme Court decisions on abortion rights, LGBT equality and the separation of church and state to be “null and void” because they are “not lawful in the eyes of God.”
OSA, which grew out of the protest group Operation Rescue and has a long-running feud with the group that currently calls itself Operation Rescue, is not shy about saying what it hopes will happen if abortion is recriminalized in the U.S. Thomas wrote on Facebook earlier this year that a woman who has an abortion has committed murder and must “face justice just like any other person who commits crimes of this magnitude.” Jason Storms, an OSA member who conducted youth seminars at last year’s Wichita event, told CBS this week that “A mother who has knowingly, willingly, chosen to kill her own child out of pure selfish motives, she’s guilty as a murderer in the eyes of the law.”
Extremist anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ activist Dave Daubenmire has been streaming his daily webcast from the Louisville event. He was a featured speaker at OSA’s event in Wichita, where he declared that “the only thing standing between tyranny and liberty is a Christian, heterosexual man.”
Despite OSA’s extremism, their mission of closing the last clinic in Kentucky seems to appeal to less bombastic anti-choice groups: the large anti-choice legal group Americans United for Life tweeted about the protests this morning.