Is the economic downturn bad for the anti-abortion movement?
That's how the head of Operation Rescue, the militant anti-abortion group, explains his organization's declining financial fortunes.
But an Associated Press story suggests it has more to do with the Wichita, Kan.-based group becoming less attractive to potential donors for a couple of important reasons.
As the AP reports:
The group's president, Troy Newman, blamed the economic downturn for its money woes in a desperate plea e-mailed Monday night to donors. But the Wichita-based organization has also been under attack from both fringe anti-abortion militants and abortion rights supporters since the May 31 shooting death of Dr. George Tiller.
"We're now so broke (as the saying goes), we can't even pay attention," Newman wrote.
Newman told The Associated Press in an interview after the mailing that the group has only four paid employees left, compared to nine a year ago. The group typically has an annual budget of $600,000, but donations this year have been down 30 to 40 percent.
Newman, who earns $60,000 annually, said he hasn't been paid in two months.
"You put a need in front of people and say, 'Here is where we are at,"' Newman said. "I have always seen people respond faithfully."
The AP story provides information that cuts against this and suggests that the decline in contributions is less about the economy and more about the alleged killing of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider, by Scott Roeder.
Roeder, who is charged with shooting Tiller during a Sunday morning church service, had the name and number of an Operation Rescue adviser in his car.
Operation Rescue has tried mightily to distance itself from that kind of violence. When anti-abortion crusader Randall Terry, who was with the group until the early 1990s, praised the Tiller killing, saying it advanced the movement's goals, the group rejected Terry's position, saying it viewed the murder as a reversal for its efforts.
In a statement, it said:
Operation Rescue repudiates this statement as being completely false and out of touch with the reality of the situation. Operation Rescue has strongly denounced Tiller's killing. Randall Terry is not affiliated with Operation Rescue and does not speak for this organization in any way.
In fact, it is Operation Rescue's position that the Tiller murder was a set-back to the pro-life movement, especially since peaceful and legal means were making progress. OR had a number of complaints progressing through the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts, which had taken the first steps in the process to revoke Tiller's medical license. Those complaints against Tiller are now closed.
Also, as the story adds, contributors to the group can no longer deduct their donations after the Internal Revenue Service determined that the group engaged in political activity in 2004.
While the AP story mentions the desperate e-mails sent out by Operation Rescue, the group's website provides none of that sense of urgency.