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Worried About Violence Against Women, Australia Will Deport Anti-Abortion Activist

Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, center, speaks to the media during a press conference outside the Sedgwick County Courthouse CREDIT: AP PHOTO/LARRY W. SMITH
Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, center, speaks to the media during a press conference outside the Sedgwick County Courthouse CREDIT: AP PHOTO/LARRY W. SMITH

A prominent anti-abortion activist with close ties to the current video campaign targeting Planned Parenthood is set to be deported from Australia, after the country’s highest court concluded that his extreme rhetoric could pose a “threat to public order” by potentially encouraging violence against women and doctors.

Troy Newman is the president of the infamous group Operation Rescue, which mounted a years-long campaign to take down late abortion doctor Dr. George Tiller. Operation Rescue — which has been described as “militant” in the pages of the New York Times — is well-known for its extreme tactics, including the systematic harassment of employees who work at abortion clinics.

Though Newman publicly condemned Tiller’s murder after the doctor was gunned down in his church in 2009, and denies that his work promotes violence in any way, his organization has ties to extreme activists who have served jail time for targeting abortion doctors. Newman himself has penned a book suggesting that abortion providers deserve the death penalty.

This week, Newman was attempting to travel to Australia for a speaking tour organized by pro-life groups, but his visa was canceled after an Australian lawmaker raised concerns that he could pose a “threat to community safety.”

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“I am most concerned that Mr. Newman’s call for abortionists to be executed could lead to threats or the commission of acts of violence against women and medical professionals,” Terri Butler, a member of the Labor Party, wrote in a letter to Australia’s top immigration official.

The Labor leader in the Australian Senate, Penny Wong, agreed. “Mr. Newman’s public comments go well beyond what would be regarded as acceptable debate in this country,” Wong said. “His views are repugnant. Mr. Newman’s presence in Australia risks inciting intimidation and violence against vulnerable women.”

Newman sought to appeal the decision to revoke his visa, but an Australian judge ultimately ruled against him.

High Court Justice Geoffrey Nettle determined that Newman posed a threat “to the good order of the Australian community” and pointed out that he technically entered the country illegally when he boarded his flight to Melbourne without a proper visa. “He does not come to this court with clean hands,” Nettle said. Newman has since withdrawn his visa bid.

In press statements released this week, Planned Parenthood officials pointed to the visa debacle to argue that the ongoing controversy swirling around the organization’s abortion services stems from fringe players in the anti-choice community.

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Newman serves on the board of the Center for Medical Progress, the group that has released multiple videos claiming that Planned Parenthood employees are illegally selling aborted baby parts. The inflammatory videos have led to massive protests, influenced state and national lawmakers to attempt to cut off funding from Planned Parenthood, sparked a congressional inquiry into the organization, and potentially even spurred vandalism against abortion clinics.

“Troy Newman is one of the godfathers of this discredited smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, and Australian officials are actually blocking him from entering their country because of his ties to violent extremism,” Eric Ferrero, the vice president of Planned Parenthood, said. “For anyone who wonders just how extreme the people behind this fraudulent smear campaign are, Australia has your answer.”

Operation Rescue, meanwhile, says that Newman is being unfairly persecuted by pro-choice advocates who are misrepresenting his views. The organization’s senior policy adviser, Cheryl Sullenger — who herself has served time in prison for conspiring to blow up an abortion clinic — says Newman is the victim of “political persecution, plain and simple, as well as an attempt to silence the pro-life message in Australia.”

Australia has recently made headlines for denying visas to other high-profile U.S. citizens. Last week, immigration officials suggested they may deny a visa to R&B; singer Chris Brown, who infamously assaulted his former girlfriend Rihanna, on “character grounds.” Some government officials have insinuated that Brown’s past behavior is inconsistent with the country’s new initiatives to address domestic violence.